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Harmony 1/5/20 Western Caribbean Review


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In prep for every upcoming cruise, I scour these boards for current, relevant information and am always very appreciative for those who take time to share their experiences.  My hope is to help others during that same planning phase by sharing OUR experience.  So here goes.... it will be my first time including photos, hopefully I can figure it out.

 

WHEN AND WHERE: We sailed January 5th on a 7 night Western Caribbean itinerary, round trip from Port Canaveral.  Normally we book well in advance but this time we had less notice.  Late last fall, Grandma said she wanted to cruise!  As she's 92, I knew I needed to fulfill her request ASAP.  We selected this sailing mostly for it's departure port (just 2hrs from home), but also because we had never been on an Oasis class ship.


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US: My family is spread across the country. Going on family vacations is how we reconnect and spend time together, typically alternating between land vacations and cruising. For this gathering we had 7 adults ranging in age from 49 – 92 (no kids).

 

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We've all sailed multiple times with Royal Caribbean, a few times with Princess, and once with Carnival. Even within our small group, opinions were varied, so I've decided to not use a rating system. Instead, I'll share the feedback received from my group and arrange this in topic form.

 

PRE-CRUISE: My aunt and uncle drove down from KY two days early, another aunt from MI flew into Melbourne one day early. They all stayed at the Hilton in Melbourne and then drove up to Port Canaveral on departure morning. Mom, grandma, husband and I drove from the Tampa area over to the port on departure morning. We had two in wheel chairs this time.  Grandma has her own but we needed to rent the other for my aunt who is awaiting back surgery. We always use Special Needs At Sea, chair rental was $85. Also rented an overnight oxygen concentrator for $245 (which requires a Rx from your doctor containing specific details). All of the equipment was complete and in good condition, we are repeat customers having only good experiences with this company. Made a quick call to RC to inform them of our rental arrangements so they would allow Spec Needs to board and deliver directly to the appropriate cabins. Upon completion of the cruise, Spec Needs retrieves the equipment after you vacate the cabin. Couldn't be easier.

 

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Two parties redeemed BofA Visa reward points for OBC which we were able to access and use via the Cruise Planner to buy a soda pkg, a refreshment pkg, an internet pkg, and make Rubicon reservations ahead of time. Once available, we also reserved all of our main entertainment through the Cruise Planner. I completed the online check-in process for all 7 of us, though the system lost mine twice and it had to be redone. Remaining OBC was then transferred to our on board accounts.

 

TIP -- Download the RC App. It has a lot of useful features, including: SetSail Pass, itinerary & port times, deck plans, calendar, reservations, scheduled activities, hours of operation, and dinner menus. There is a built-in messaging feature but we hardly used it since it doesn't include an audible alert when you receive a message.

 

Edited by Ren1216
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EMBARKATION / DISEMBARKATION: The terminal at PC was easy to find (consulted an online map).  As you can see, the ship towers above anything else in the area... you can't not find her!

 

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Though I submitted forms requesting pier assistance, the reply I received was to seek assistance upon arrival at the pier. We didn't bother, but should have. I was expecting to drop all parties and luggage at the curb as we've done in the past. Instead, we were only allowed to drop the checked bags and were instructed to park and push chairs / haul carry-ons from the car.  Ugh!   Fortunately, the parking deck is very convenient to the terminal, cost was $136 for the week (pre-pay).  Don't bring any prepared foods – they made us throw out a piece of cheese cake someone tried to bring. Fruits and such are also a no-no, but I think packaged foods are ok. Once inside the terminal, embarkation was a bit chaotic, most likely due to having 2 in wheel chairs which altered the normal flow.  In true RC form – we were given different instructions by different people. Despite completing the online check-in, having all of the SetSail Passes on my phone turned out to be useless as they split us up due to the chairs (always kept us together in the past). Fortunately, most of us printed our SetSail Passes. Then there was more confusion.... Were we all checked in? Were only some of us checked in? It was eventually sorted, we signed for our on board charges, took photos.... and made our way onto the ship within minutes. Albeit a little worn and frazzled already.

 

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On the other end, standard disembarkation (later in the morning) went very smoothly. Facial recognition, no customs forms. And a porter hauled our luggage all the way out to the car. Very nice! However, for those in our group who opted for early disembark, it was chaotic and messy. Luggage was not unloaded in proper order which led to long waits with no seating (my poor aunt, who had to abandon her rented wheel chair on the ship, had no place to sit for relief). One of us left something behind in the terminal, received a call about it the next day.

 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Harmony is HUGE! But also amazing and beautiful. She's well maintained, don't think I saw any real wear any place. Staff is constantly cleaning public areas (glass, hand rails, etc). You know immediately that there will be a lot of walking during the coming week. At least it's a way to work off some of the food you're about to stuff yourself with! If you've been on Freedom or earlier class ships, you'll notice the difference in width on Harmony. Another thing we noticed right away was something missing... in the past, the moment you stepped on board, you were greeted with servers shoving drinks at you. This is something we look forward to! For us, it marks the official start of vacation. We had to hunt down our drinks all week. Strange.

 

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CABINS: We booked three balcony cabins (two doubles and a triple)....

14570 (starboard) / 14166 (accessible, port) / 14174 (port).

 

The accessible cabin was very roomy with a long balcony. It accommodated 3 adults with 2 wheel chairs just fine. The bathroom was big with good space around the commode and a large shower that included a bench and hand-held shower head. Drainage was well designed, no water mess on the floor after your shower. The only complaint about this cabin was it's short on storage for 3 people, one aunt had to leave all her clothing in a suitcase due to inadequate drawer and hanging space.

 

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The standard balcony cabins were fine for 2, seemed roomy compared to others we've had (maybe due to the simple design).  Plenty of storage for the couples.

 

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Bathrooms always seem a bit small but had the best shower of all our cruises so far. Particularly liked the hand held shower head that can be removed or set into the bracket and positioned in any direction. The faucet placement (sink) was a pain though, getting water all over the counter every time you used it. When the bathroom light is turned off, a small portion at one end stays dimly lit (at least it did in ours), eliminating the need for a night light. The frig/cooler kept our sodas cold once we asked for the ice bucket to remain filled (we carried on a 12pk). And the ice lasted a long time, was nice to have for ice water. Standard TV programming was awful. But the TV does provide access to your on board account, reservations, room service, messages, etc. That was handy. Our room steward, Nancy, was outstanding! Very personable, very accommodating, seemed to actually care that we were comfortable and having a good time. The others found their steward to be efficient but nothing special. We got 3 towel animals, they got 1.

 

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CABIN LOCATION: Our cabins were located forward on deck 14, didn't get a lot of choice since there were only 2 accessible cabins remaining when we booked. Initially I regretted this location for two reasons.  Reason 1)  Deck 14 is right beneath the pool deck, and these cabins were right under the area of the cantilevered hot tubs.  We expected a lot of noise from activity on the deck above.  The port side cabins did have a bit of noise (dragged chairs) but our cabin on the starboard side was perfectly quiet except one time when there was some kind of motor running (maybe cleaning the hot tub above?).  Only lasted about 10 minutes.  Reason 2)  The MDR and buffet were all aft and we had mobility limitations.  Turns out, the forward elevators are indeed less busy, much easier to load in 2 wheel chairs.  We learned how to navigate and this location actually worked out well. Hubs and I preferred to  jump up to 16 and walk the outdoor deck to the aft....

 

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...while my mom and others preferred to go down to deck 5 and walk the Promenade to the aft. If we sail this class in the future, I'll likely book near the forward elevators again. Booking mid-ship appears to offer no real benefit, believe me when I say it's still a long walk to either set of elevators from the middle. There are touch screen navigation monitors near each elevator bank so you can view all the deck plans and find the best route for where you're going.

 

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FOOD:  For the most part we're pretty easy to please, keep that in mind while reading our thoughts on the food.

 

MDR – Chose the early traditional seating at 5pm as some in the group don't care to eat late (and frankly, some tire early!).  As we all know, quality has declined over the years.  That said, we all felt the food in the MDR was still pretty good. Of course everyone has different tastes, but we didn't have many complaints. Most everything was tasty and cooked well. One aunt didn't care for the prime rib while others thought it was good. I loved the French Onion Soup, mom loved the escargot, Grandma loved the shrimp cocktail. Desserts were decent. We were all full upon leaving each night. We wound up in the Silk Dining Room.

 

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BUFFET (washy-washy!) – Overall, pretty good. It was definitely crowded at times, particularly around the hot-dishes area upon opening.  And sometimes it was hard to find a seat, until we discovered the reserved accessible tables. Lots of choices, great salad bar (uncle said the salad dressings were bitter), decent veggie choices, great meat choices, good always-present options like hot dogs, burgers, chicken tenders, french fries, pizza, etc. There were theme nights such as Mexican and Italian. Breakfast was typical but decent. Fruit was good, lots of dessert choices that were good. Beverages were the usual lemonade, tea, water, coffee... soda was easy to obtain from the servers or the Freestyle machines. Dirty dishes were removed quickly and continuously.  Hubs and I had dinner here 3 times (more than usual), service was very good for us every time.  But others in the group had trouble getting help with drinks or other things, particularly in the morning. Obviously there would too much waste keeping the buffet open 24hrs, but it really would be nice if they kept a small section open until maybe midnight.  Some of us are accustomed to eating later at home, sometimes you return late from port and need a nap before dinner, and sometimes you just want a mid-night snack!

 

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Sorrento's pizza was pretty good.

 

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A few had breakfast in the Solarium Bistro and quite enjoyed it.

 

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We had every intention of trying Mini Bites and The Dog House but never got to it.

 

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Three in the group went to 150 Central Park and said it was “exceptional”. After reading tons of reviews in prep for this cruise, we didn't feel any of the other Specialty restaurants were going to be worth $100+ per couple, so we didn't bother. We were happy enough with the plethora of included dining options.

 

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DRINKS:  Within our group there was a Soda Pkg and a Refreshment Pkg, they had absolutely no problem getting drinks anywhere.  None of us had any issue with weak drinks.  Grandma bought one can of soda, it was almost $4 with the gratuity included.  Us gals enjoyed trying all the drinks-of-the-day.  Strawberry and mango Lava Flows are always a favorite ($14), but I also enjoyed the Portside Punch ($10). Coffee was said to be strong but decent. Seemed the iced tea was better than I remembered it.

 

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SERVICE: Service from the actual bar was good everywhere. Our dining room waiters, Septiyan and Salih, were attentive, thorough, and efficient. Very nice young men, they tended to our every request and then some. We saw no bar service in the MDR, our waiters tended to all drink orders. Not as many roaming servers as there used to be, anywhere.  Don't understand why, it was disappointing.  We tipped add'l cash and asked them to come back, but rarely did they. We've always enjoyed chatting with the staff (when time permits) and hearing about their lives outside of the ship. Very few seemed interested in connecting this way, so the overall experience wasn't the same. Efficient. Cheerful. But not personal. Not really a complaint, just an observation.  One visit to Guest Services found them attentive, patient and helpful.

 

ENTERTAINMENT: 1887 A Journey In Time was very good (Grandma loved it!).

 

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The Fine Line was an interesting and entertaining show, everyone enjoyed it. Luckily, we reserved the first showing, later shows would be canceled due to high wind and rough seas.

 

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Unfortunately, our mid-week reservation for Columbus was also canceled. They rescheduled it for Friday which upset our existing reservation for Grease, which then conflicted with our dinner seating. Then I think Columbus was canceled again. We ended up missing both, which was disappointing.  We've been spoiled by our Schooner experiences on previous cruises which had awesome entertainers, we usually spend countless hours in this venue. Not this time, it was just so-so. I will say the Headliner ventriloquist was better than expected. Started out kind of meh but got better and had us laughing hard by the end. I suggest scheduling shows that are of the greatest interest to you early in the week in case cancellations and rescheduling occurs. Actually, you can probably count on this, I've seen a lot of others mention this lately.  It's a bummer, but we appreciate that the Captain cares about the safety of the performers.

 

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ACTIVITIES: We typically enjoy a few game-show type activities. Love and Marriage, Battle of the Sexes and The Quest Game are all pretty reliable for some laughs. I noticed a bit of a different flavor/attitude this time with The Quest, which caused me not to enjoy it as much as in the past. Just personal tastes. Maybe it was our activities manager that I wasn't overly fond of. Still fun for the most part.

 

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We escaped the Rubicon with 42 seconds to spare. Had 6 from our group plus 4-5 others to work with. Some of us would have preferred it to just be our group alone, but I think we'd have been locked in there all day without the extra minds and hands. It was hard! Then again, it was my first escape room. Definitely fun and worth trying.

 

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Four of us took the Galley Tour and thoroughly enjoyed learning all about what goes on behind the scenes. All felt it was worth the cost, and said the included lunch was outstanding.

 

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Something new for this trip... I concocted a week-long photo Scavenger Hunt and split the group into 3 teams (by cabin). The List contained items to find on board as well as some to find in port, plus chances for extra credit. Working on it enabled us to discover more about the ship and also created opportunity to interact with our fellow passengers since none of the photos could be of us or anything belonging to us. At the end of the week, the winning team was awarded a prize. Everyone really got into it and seemed to have fun, think we'll be doing this again.

 

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PUBLIC SPACES:

 

The Royal Theater...

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Aqua Theater...

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Studio B...

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Boardwalk...

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...all very nice!  Good amount of comfortable seating in all of venues – and varied – couches, chairs (some with arms, some without), booths, bar counters with stools, etc.

 

Though the Card Room initially looked to be a decent size, it was often full. Busier than any card room I've ever seen, and very noisy!  Unfortunately, it's tucked away inside on deck 14 with zero view and no bar near by like on other ships.

 

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So we took to playing cards elsewhere when possible.

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Many times the music in the Promenade was way too loud, couldn't carry on a conversation. Otherwise, this is one of our favorite places. The photo center was good, though some of the walk-up computers weren't working. Staff was helpful and purchases were made. The Solarium is lovely.... but we miss the pool!

 

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Rising Tide bar is pretty cool.

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Pools are nice, saw lots of open loungers.

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Kids areas looked fun.

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As did the mini golf.

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Edited by Ren1216
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29 minutes ago, Ren1216 said:

I concocted a week-long photo Scavenger Hunt and split the group into 3 teams (by cabin). The List contained items to find on board as well as some to find in port, plus chances for extra credit.

I would love to see what you included on your scavenger hunt list! Sounds like a fun activity

 

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PORTS:   Note – we docked on the starboard side in every port.

 

CocoCay:  This is a really, really nice private island!  We were all impressed with how much it changed since our last visit. I was surprised when none of us wanted to swim or do the water park.  Maybe it was a bit too chilly (we typically sail in the fall).  Instead, we took our time going ashore and then just walked around the island taking  pictures.  Lunch was plentiful and tasty. We quite enjoyed the Coco Locos! Browsed the huts looking for unique souvenirs and such. Talked a bit with a very nice man who custom etches bottles, I bought one. It's a long pier but they do have trams, some will accommodate folded wheel chairs, not sure about scooters.

 

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Costa Maya:  A very commercialized port area, but worth walking around. Some of our group took the Chocchoben Ruins Tour with Native Choice – great company and tour. The walk to their office is about a mile. Supposedly you can take a taxi, but when they tried, were basically turned away and told the walk was “only 3 blocks”. Not true. Clearly the drivers didn't want to miss out on a bigger fare, which is understandable. But in light of this, I think NC should offer a transport option (for a fee). At any rate, Lorenzo was a great guide. He shared loads of info about Mayan culture and history, and provided a very enjoyable tour. The skies opened up and poured buckets on the way back to the ship – definitely bring rain ponchos ashore in every port! Another long pier, no trams that we saw.

 

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Roatan: Victor Bodden Tours – our guide, Francisco, was really good. Took us where ever we wanted to go. Got to hug sloths and play with monkeys, such a neat experience. 

 

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Lunch at Temporary Cal's Cantina (which is for sale) was very good. Friendly service, fantastic view. Mom and Aunts quite enjoyed the Monkey LaLa! 

 

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My aunt saw an armed man standing guard outside which shook her a little, I missed it somehow. Not sure what he was protecting... us or ??

 

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Our weather - not so good, rained most of the day. Still had a nice time though. This was the shortest of the piers.

 

 

 

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Cozumel (International Pier):   We originally had no plans for this port since we've been here many times.  But about a week before sailing, decided to make a reservation with Alamo.  Ended up in a nice, new Jeep.  Price was a little steep since we took the insurances offered and the $20 return gas as-is option.  Think the total was around $110 (actual rental was supposedly only $26).  TIP: Check your credit cards for one that has no foreign transaction fee (used my Citi Costco card).

 

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Circled the island, spending most of the day on the east side (something we've done before).

 

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Rest of the gang hung around the port area and then went to Margaritaville for lunch. They had a BLAST. Really enjoyed the atmosphere and fun vibe the servers provide while interacting with the patrons. Live band. Food was good, portions were big. Said it was the best Margaritaville they've ever been to. Even Grandma had fun dancing in her chair while the others did the conga line and had booze poured into their mouths. Imagine a group of 60-90 year olds acting like youngsters.... they're still talking about it.

 

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Another long pier with no transport.

 

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Almost done......... a few last topics to wrap things up.

 

ISSUES / COMPLAINTS:  The few issues we had were quickly remedied. For example, even though all the reservations were linked together, one couple was assigned a different dining table than the rest. We headed straight to the MDR upon noticing and it was fixed within a few minutes (this moved us from the American Icon Grill dining room to Silk). One cabin had some trouble with the toilet the first night, also quickly fixed. As for complaints, one thing I didn't much care for (and I had read about this before hand) was being approached by staff -while eating- with what initially appears as just casual, courteous conversation... only to find out you're getting a sales pitch. I understand why they do it since it was effective with us on two occasions (ie: galley tour and 150 Central Park reservation). But it still bugged me.  Also wish there was a set of elevators mid-ship to help disperse the crowd AND make walking distances shorter. Might not be an issue for younger passengers but it is for older / mobility challenged folks.

 

OVERALL THOUGHTS / CONCLUSION: Some liked Harmony's size, others not so much. It's definitely a lot of walking, do consider this if you have mobility issues. One aunt said she'd not wish to sail on Harmony again, but my mom would love to.  The up side are all the cool features and amenities. There's so much to do! For the most part, Harmony is able to handle her massive passenger load... we were told 6500+ pax, plus 2800 crew. The second half of our week was really windy! On a ship this size, I didn't expect to feel much movement – and didn't the first half of the trip as she cut through the water like butter. But once the seas kicked up, she rocked just as much as any other. Personally, I love it – even when it makes me look like I've had too much to drink. Now if you've cruised before, you've probably encountered some rudeness from fellow passengers. Have to say I was pleasantly surprised on this sailing to find nearly everyone was polite and helpful, even when things were rushed and crowded. There's always a couple bad apples.  But the overall mood was great. This could be my grandmothers last cruise as she's to the point where getting around is tough and she tires so easily. The trip was exhausting for her but she did well and had a great time. RC did a good job accommodating all of her needs, all of our needs really. My family is grateful to have had this experience together. If you have plans to sail Harmony... take lots of pictures, connect with one another, and enjoy your week away from everyday life. Remember: the cure for everything is salt water... sweat, tears, and the sea.

 

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I'm happy to try and answer questions but there's a lot we just didn't get to.  Hubs planned to spend an evening in the casino, but fell ill on the last sea day, which wrecked his grand plan.  Seemed we were always full, so we ran out of time to try all the included eateries.  I'd like to do a mini golf tournament next time, maybe a slot pull.  What we really need is a longer itinerary or a b2b!  Maybe next time.

 

Edited by Ren1216
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Thank you so much for an awesome review,  it sounds like you had a nice time. We love the bigger ships, they are one of our favorites.  My husband has MS and other neuro issues but he loves the walking. Thanks again for your detailed report. 😀

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2 hours ago, dreamingmermaid said:

I would love to see what you included on your scavenger hunt list! Sounds like a fun activity

 

Here's the List we did this time (incl Rules), distributed at sail away.  It was better received than I anticipated.... we all became quite competitive, lots of whispering and secretive picture-snapping so others wouldn't notice your find.  I'd planned to have each team submit a flash drive containing their photos, but in the end we just used the honor system to calculate our totals.

 

 

SCAVENGER HUNT

 

RULES:

  • Use your digital or cell phone camera to take a picture of each item in the list below

  • Every “Someone” must be a Stranger

  • Pictured Items Cannot Be You Or Belong To You

  • Each picture will earn 1 point, liberal interpretation will be allowed

  • Extra Credit points awarded for items noted as “XC” (1 pt each unless noted otherwise)

  • The Hunt will end: __________________________

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

FIND ANYWHERE:

Ships Officer (XC - Captain)

Sushi Roll

Pink Flip-Flops

Bingo Card (XC- winning card)

Gangway

Someone Dancing

Smooching Couple

Steam

Someone Wearing a Mask & Snorkel

Nap in Progress (XC 2 people / same photo)

Ship Passing in the Night

Your Reflection

Your Shadow in a Silly or Creative Pose

Crab (XC - alive)

Besties

Something Floating

Decorated Cabin Door (XC - MOST decorated)

Someone Playing a Game

Someone Doing What the Sign Says

Someone Climbing

Someone Surfing

Someone Sliding (XC - water involved)

Someone Zipping

Someone Skating (XC - kid)

Someone Riding a Horse

Life Preserver (XC - someone is wearing it)

Porthole

Cherry On Top

Pelican

Part of a Creature Protruding from the Sea

Man With a Beard but NO Mustache

Hard Cover Book (XC - green)

Someone Wearing Sunglasses Inside the Ship

Ladle

Wood Pencil with Eraser

Bubbles

Man Wearing a Fedora

Someone Wearing a Cast (XC – if you sign it)

Purple Painted Toenails

Treasure

Wacky Outfit

 

IN PORT: (XC – add'l photos in each port)

Name of Island Sign

License Plate

National Flag

Police Vehicle

Traffic Sign

Beach Chairs Under an Umbrella

Free Roaming Animal

Island Name Written in the Sand

Kids Playing

Foreign Currency

Native Flower

Street Vendor or Cart

Fountain

Bridge

Church

Spider Web

Gun Boat

 

Here are some of our photos:

 

National Flag 

IMG_1289.thumb.JPG.c6f4024f5a31a1d8d8f6e188829fa48c.JPG

 

ship passing in the night

IMG_7597.thumb.JPG.07231cfb89ad9c381ef97082b7e37b7e.JPG

 

island name written in the sand

IMG_7650.thumb.jpg.5a2cdc170c44e07402819ea5ba199cc6.jpg

 

crab

P1050063.thumb.JPG.c83520c8772850825a39b78fdae04078.JPG

 

cherry on top

P1040547.thumb.JPG.831a36b039b83cda5a89bc9f7e1ccba0.JPG

 

someone zipping

P1040919.thumb.JPG.58c4f3bcfd9614b7673b6a563da0dbca.JPG

 

part of a creature protruding from the sea

P1050081.thumb.JPG.bd001257aed9b1a7cdcb2a7822795c3b.JPG

 

free roaming animal

P1040542.thumb.JPG.f46b52144359d84fc59f08c555e0e1d9.JPG

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I enjoyed your review and the pictures of the ship and ports.  The Scavenger Hunt sounds like great fun for a group.  We've only done one family cruise, but you've inspired me to organize another!  

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Great review.   Travelled on Harmony's last Fort Lauderdale docking.  Love the Oasis ' ships. Sailing Symphony April 2021, can't wait. This is only the second time that I will visit CoCo Cay.  The last time I was there it was a rock in the middle of the water. Now it rivals Labadee!

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2 hours ago, tutzig said:

Awesome review! Getting me ready for the 3/1/20 sailing!

 

Did you get to the piano bar at all?

I assume you mean Schooners.  Yes, we tried it a few times but found it wasn't on par with what we'd experienced on Freedom and Independence.  So we didn't spend a whole lot of time there like we usually do.

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Thanks for your excellent review! Sounds like you and your family, especially Grandma, had a wonderful time. Thanks for sharing your cruise and pictures with us. We can’t wait until our turn on Harmony in the fall. 🛳

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We were also on this sailing- with the exception of a couple of windy days- loved it!  Service was excellent- have no complaints at all!  We were in suite with our 21 year old granddaughter who loved it also.  

We enjoy the Western Caribbean and also love the Southern Caribbean itinerary.  Cannot wait for our next cruise in March on Celebrity and again in August on Royal Caribbean Oasis!

 

We put our review up on the Review section of Cruise critic.

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14 hours ago, Ren1216 said:

We booked three balcony cabins (two doubles and a triple)....

14570 (starboard)

We were a few doors down from you!

 

I should be doing a review here in the next few days as well.

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