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Harmony of the Seas - Great, but...what I wish I had known


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This is going to be a real quick review and I’ve hesitated on this because there will be some negative.  But I can’t say how many times I thought, “Darn it - I wish I had known about this in advance.”  A little background, my adult son and I live in Central Florida.  This was our third Oasis-class cruise, sixth RCI cruise.  The ship and the crew were awesome.  The shows were fantastic.  For the first time ever we felt motion on an Oasis-class ship!  I love a little motion, so it was wonderful!  I love getting sea legs.  I love the creaking of a ship.  It was great!  

 

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NOW - on to the warning.  Please know that I have never written a negative review about a shore excursion on this site.  I understand the struggles of some of the islands.  I understand the people are doing what they need to survive and I want to support them.  BUT there’s a line between trying to survive and downright taking advantage.  My son and I decided to check out Maho Beach to see the planes land.  If I had known then what I know now, I would not have gone.  The tour guide told us on the drive over that once at the beach it will cost $1 to go to the bathroom.  Okay, ha ha.  No problem.  Part of the adventure, right?  The tour guide also said braids are $2 each, chairs are first-come, first-serve.  Again, all of these - no problem.  So, the bus drops us off at the Casino, tour guide tells us to be back at 1:15, don’t wait in front of the Casino, wait under the tree in the parking lot.  Son and I walk over to the beach.  The beach is PACKED.  There is a restaurant, bar and DJ.  If you’re a drinker, maybe you will enjoy the drinks.  The food admittedly looked great.  A couple small planes come in - cool, but underwhelming.  A medium-size plane takes off.  Again, cool, but underwhelming.  We see a woman getting her hair braided with two braids and hands over a $20 to hair braiding lady.  The hair braiding lady holds out her hand for more money.  The woman hands over another $20.  OOKKAAYY.  It’s her money, not mine.  My son and I sit down on a chair in the shade.  Hair braiding lady comes over, says that chairs in the shade cost $10 each.  Huh?  We were told there was no cost.  Whatever, it’s not worth a fight, so we abandon our chairs.  Then another four people come over and sit in the chairs behind us in the sun.  Hair braiding lady comes over and says the chairs in the sun cost $10 each.  They hand over $40.  Another hair braiding lady comes over and starts massaging one of the guy’s shoulders.  Holds her hand out - $30.  He said absolutely no.  By this time we’re seeing a pattern.  It’s getting close to meeting time so we decide to walk back to our meeting place.  The tree - it’s in the middle of a parking lot.  This parking lot is, no exaggeration, absolutely crazy.  Cars and buses going all directions, literally inches between other vehicles and us.  People start coming back to our little tree in the parking lot and I start hearing other horror stories.  $50 hair braids.  Expensive foot massages.  The crowd is getting bigger.  The tree is really not that big.  The traffic is going around us.  The Casino chased some of the people that were standing in the shade in the front of the building.  Almost an HOUR late, the bus comes in.  

Oh, and the big planes?  We find out while standing under the little tree in the parking lot - they don’t start coming in until after 2:00.  This entire excursion was one big rip off.  The least the tour company could have done was:  (1) provide a safe place to wait; (2) be on time when they told us to meet at 1:15; (3) advise that the big planes don’t come in until after the tour ends;  and (4) offer at a minimum a small bottle of water while waiting an hour for the bus.  

Avoid this excursion. 

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2 minutes ago, Parrothead234 said:

This is going to be a real quick review and I’ve hesitated on this because there will be some negative.  But I can’t say how many times I thought, “Darn it - I wish I had known about this in advance.”  A little background, my adult son and I live in Central Florida.  This was our third Oasis-class cruise, sixth RCI cruise.  The ship and the crew were awesome.  The shows were fantastic.  For the first time ever we felt motion on an Oasis-class ship!  I love a little motion, so it was wonderful!  I love getting sea legs.  I love the creaking of a ship.  It was great!  

 

 

 

So what were the things you wished you had known in advance.  

Seems you had a great time.  

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Wow. I can totally understand your frustration! So many times people get slack for posting negative comments/reviews but hey no cruise is perfect!  It stinks when your excursion is a bust. We had a tour train that was a complete bust on Key West.

Edited by RCLcruiser2012
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1 hour ago, Parrothead234 said:

Please know that I have never written a negative review about a shore excursion on this site.

That's a shame unless all your excisions have been 100% perfect before this.  This site is better with more transparency.

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In St Martin we only tour with Bernard’s Tours.  He is well known on the island and we have had zero problems using him four times now.

 

You get beach time, a tour of the island and get to Maho when the big planes comes in.  The driver never leaves you so you are always able to leave your personal things on the shuttle.  You are always back at the ship at least two hours ahead of boarding time.

 

Look at his website and reviews...I promise you will not be disappointed!!

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That is unfortunate you had such a bad Maho beach experience. We went last April when on Harmony and it was great. Yes it was crazy crowded but we had many planes fly above our heads including 2 large jets. We did not try to sit in any chairs as there were none in the area directly below the planes. 

 

We also had to wait a bit for the bus to arrive and had to avoid the shaded area in front of the casino. 

 

Overall a great excursion as we got some awesome photos. 

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Edited by thrifty99
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10 hours ago, Parrothead234 said:

NOW - on to the warning.  Please know that I have never written a negative review about a shore excursion on this site.  I understand the struggles of some of the islands.  I understand the people are doing what they need to survive and I want to support them.  BUT there’s a line between trying to survive and downright taking advantage.  My son and I decided to check out Maho Beach to see the planes land.  If I had known then what I know now, I would not have gone.  The tour guide told us on the drive over that once at the beach it will cost $1 to go to the bathroom.  Okay, ha ha.  No problem.  Part of the adventure, right?  The tour guide also said braids are $2 each, chairs are first-come, first-serve.  Again, all of these - no problem.  So, the bus drops us off at the Casino, tour guide tells us to be back at 1:15, don’t wait in front of the Casino, wait under the tree in the parking lot.  Son and I walk over to the beach.  The beach is PACKED.  There is a restaurant, bar and DJ.  If you’re a drinker, maybe you will enjoy the drinks.  The food admittedly looked great.  A couple small planes come in - cool, but underwhelming.  A medium-size plane takes off.  Again, cool, but underwhelming.  We see a woman getting her hair braided with two braids and hands over a $20 to hair braiding lady.  The hair braiding lady holds out her hand for more money.  The woman hands over another $20.  OOKKAAYY.  It’s her money, not mine.  My son and I sit down on a chair in the shade.  Hair braiding lady comes over, says that chairs in the shade cost $10 each.  Huh?  We were told there was no cost.  Whatever, it’s not worth a fight, so we abandon our chairs.  Then another four people come over and sit in the chairs behind us in the sun.  Hair braiding lady comes over and says the chairs in the sun cost $10 each.  They hand over $40.  Another hair braiding lady comes over and starts massaging one of the guy’s shoulders.  Holds her hand out - $30.  He said absolutely no.  By this time we’re seeing a pattern.  It’s getting close to meeting time so we decide to walk back to our meeting place.  The tree - it’s in the middle of a parking lot.  This parking lot is, no exaggeration, absolutely crazy.  Cars and buses going all directions, literally inches between other vehicles and us.  People start coming back to our little tree in the parking lot and I start hearing other horror stories.  $50 hair braids.  Expensive foot massages.  The crowd is getting bigger.  The tree is really not that big.  The traffic is going around us.  The Casino chased some of the people that were standing in the shade in the front of the building.  Almost an HOUR late, the bus comes in.  

Oh, and the big planes?  We find out while standing under the little tree in the parking lot - they don’t start coming in until after 2:00.  This entire excursion was one big rip off.  The least the tour company could have done was:  (1) provide a safe place to wait; (2) be on time when they told us to meet at 1:15; (3) advise that the big planes don’t come in until after the tour ends;  and (4) offer at a minimum a small bottle of water while waiting an hour for the bus.  

Avoid this excursion. 

Sorry this happened to you and glad you didn't pay for the loungers. I wouldn't have either.

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Was this an excursion sponsored by Royal, or was it a private tour that you booked.  

 

Sounds like it wasn't a very well executed excursion in either case, and I would've been very disappointed in as well. 

 

We've done Maho before and had a wonderful experience, but we used Bernard's Tours.  The driver planned our day so that we were at the right place at the right time for the bigger planes, and he dropped us in a great spot.   We found Bernards through numerous recommendations on Cruise Critic in the Ports of Call section.  If you ever go back to the island, I would highly recommend Bernard's to you.  

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We went to Maho a few cruises ago. It was busy, a few vendors asked if we wanted massages or braids. Never thought twice about any of these things. It was at the end of a 6 port cruise. Yet it was still a fresh experience.

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Echo the recommendation for Bernard’s Tours.  Timed Maho perfectly in the afternoon after the rest of our island tour so there were large jets landing, van was close by and parked in exact spot where he left us. When we were done we could go in air conditioned van and have drinks while waiting for the others to join. We weren’t harassed about chairs and braids even though the beach was crowded (was also on Harmony).  Highly recommend Bernard’s for next time if you go again. If this was a Royal tour, they should definitely change vendors.

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Last time we were in St. Martin, we just took a cab over and back to Maho Beach.  We had checked the plane schedule online (had done our own research) so knew what to expect and timed going over to hit the big planes on our own.  Just used our own beach towels and only paid for cabs there and back.  We did buy some snacks and sodas at the bar too.  I actually loved the crowded atmosphere.  Talked to some other really nice tourists into photography.  They could see we were really into photography with all our different camera equipment.  Had a great time taking photos of planes coming in with our GoPro and other cameras.  This was actually my favorite experience on the whole cruise (This was a cruise out of San Juan on Carnival) - not RCCL.  This was a few years back and we weren't approached by anyone about chairs or hair braiding.  We were so engaged in our photography and talking to other photographers, so maybe no one wanted to bother us.  Do note too, that DS used to take flying lessons, etc. too - so if you have an interest in aviation and are a photographer, what's not to love about Maho Beach.

 

We're doing the Harmony in about a week and a 1/2 (first RCCL cruise), and actually did book a tour with Bernard's.  Since we did Maho last time (only place we went on this island, but a total blast for us), thought we'd see a little more of the island this time, but we did want to stop quickly at Maho Beach again.  Here we will be at the mercy of the tour, so aren't expecting to see the big planes, etc. or having adequate time for serious photography.  But we did that last time.  

 

This is a place that is easy/peasy to do on your own.

Edited by kathy884
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We've done both Bernard's (which I also recommend) and just taking a taxi.  Sounds like your tour was only transportation and you would have done as well (or better) with a taxi.  I wonder if the women on the beach demanding money for the lounge chairs were trying to take advantage of you.  I too thought the chairs were part of the bar and were free on a first come, first served basis.  They may have been telling people that they cost money just to see if anyone would give it to them. 

 

Shame you missed some of the big planes...cool experience.  Unless we're cruising with someone who has not been there yet though, we don't bother anymore.  I didn't want to "ride the fence" with a big plane taking off but decided to stand on the rocks while a private plane took off.  I forgot that some of those small planes have big engines.  I got blown off the rock, my hat and glasses went flying, and I was sacrificing my body to make sure that my camera wasn't damaged.

 

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You don't know something until you experience it.  Sorry your excursion was not good.  We were there last week on Harmony and for once, we didn't get off the ship.  We've been there many times and have done the Maho Beach excursion thru the ship but it was nothing like yours, thank goodness.  All I can say is, research as much as you can prior to your cruise. Did you let the shore excursions department know about your experience at Maho Beach?   Did you let RCI know when you did your post cruise survey?  If enough people complain about a vendor, they may drop them and go with someone else. 

Edited by Diver2014
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