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Southern Caribbean on Explorer vs. Harmony w/ new cruisers?


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I know this is very subjective, but always like to hear others' opinions!  I have a group of 12 (bridal party) looking to take a cruise in February 2022 - a mix of adults (oldest in mid 40s so no mobility issues, etc) - 4 of those are young adults ages 14, 16, 20, 20 - they are not highly active / adventurous, just normal kids.  This will be the first cruise for 6 of the 12 people.  I'm looking at either a cruise on either of these routes:

 

Harmony (from Port Canaveral): St Thomas, Antigua, Coco Cay

Explorer (from San Juan): St Thomas, St. Croix, St. Lucia, St. Martin, St. Kitts Barbados

 

I personally love the Southern route and have been on it 3 times - it will always be my preferred Caribbean route.  On the other hand, I think the young adults will probably love the Oasis-class ship with all of its activities and amenities.  Even though the Harmony only has 3 port days, I like these ports quite a bit better than other options on the Symphony (western w/ Coco Cay - we have been to Cozumel a lot!) or Oasis (eastern w/ Labadee - I don't like San Juan as a standalone port and not a big fan of Labadee over Coco Cay) for the same week.  

 

I'm really split between where to go...I do think the Southern route gives a huge amount of opportunities to see some unique places, but how does that weigh vs. all of the options and entertainment on an Oasis class ship, especially for newer and younger cruisers?  They also have vanilla preferences in terms of food, so wonderland and some of the fancier specialty dining won't be a huge difference - they are "all american kids" in terms of their food preferences.  I don't think they will be all over the rock wall or zip line either, but will go for the waterslides, ultimate abyss, pools, laser tag, and shows.  I guess the ultimate question is - is a sea day on an Oasis class ship better than a beach day in a unique Southern port?  So hard for me to decide.

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I don't think you could go wrong with either. We are doing that Explorer itinerary in November but we sailed on Harmony  in 2019 and absolutely loved that ship. With the number of people in your party that are first time cruisers plus young people I would go with Harmony. Lots to do on board plus sea days are really fun.

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2 minutes ago, cbaker1974 said:

all of the options and entertainment on an Oasis class ship, especially for newer and younger cruisers?

If you care about keeping the kids happy, go with Harmony. 

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Harmony for that group.  So much more to do onboard for ALL age groups.  If it were me and a friend, I'd be all over the Southern one, but in this case I think Harmony is totally your best choice.  

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New ship always wins for us personally.

 

We once chose an older ship (not RCI) for its fantastic Southern Caribbean itinerary only for it to break down on day 3 and for us to go home with nothing. So, my DH refuses to step foot on another older ship.

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2 hours ago, cbaker1974 said:

I know this is very subjective, but always like to hear others' opinions!  I have a group of 12 (bridal party) looking to take a cruise in February 2022 - a mix of adults (oldest in mid 40s so no mobility issues, etc) - 4 of those are young adults ages 14, 16, 20, 20 - they are not highly active / adventurous, just normal kids.  This will be the first cruise for 6 of the 12 people.  I'm looking at either a cruise on either of these routes:

 

Harmony (from Port Canaveral): St Thomas, Antigua, Coco Cay

Explorer (from San Juan): St Thomas, St. Croix, St. Lucia, St. Martin, St. Kitts Barbados

 

I personally love the Southern route and have been on it 3 times - it will always be my preferred Caribbean route.  On the other hand, I think the young adults will probably love the Oasis-class ship with all of its activities and amenities.  Even though the Harmony only has 3 port days, I like these ports quite a bit better than other options on the Symphony (western w/ Coco Cay - we have been to Cozumel a lot!) or Oasis (eastern w/ Labadee - I don't like San Juan as a standalone port and not a big fan of Labadee over Coco Cay) for the same week.  

 

I'm really split between where to go...I do think the Southern route gives a huge amount of opportunities to see some unique places, but how does that weigh vs. all of the options and entertainment on an Oasis class ship, especially for newer and younger cruisers?  They also have vanilla preferences in terms of food, so wonderland and some of the fancier specialty dining won't be a huge difference - they are "all american kids" in terms of their food preferences.  I don't think they will be all over the rock wall or zip line either, but will go for the waterslides, ultimate abyss, pools, laser tag, and shows.  I guess the ultimate question is - is a sea day on an Oasis class ship better than a beach day in a unique Southern port?  So hard for me to decide.

The sailing on Explorer has 6 port/islands stops so they really wouldn't be the ship much, what is there 1 sea day?   They should be able to entertain themselves for 1 sea day on Explorer, they may be exhausted by then.

 

I personally love the southern Caribbean sailings but the younger ones would love CocoCay too.    

    

did you check airfare?     airfare may be your deciding factor as it tends to be a couple hundred more to fly to San Juan than to FL.    

 

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59 minutes ago, Itchy&Scratchy said:

New ship always wins for us personally.

 

We once chose an older ship (not RCI) for its fantastic Southern Caribbean itinerary only for it to break down on day 3 and for us to go home with nothing. So, my DH refuses to step foot on another older ship.

Allure had issues before covid, so cannot really base it on age of the ship 

new cars break down too!

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17 minutes ago, Sunshine3601 said:

The sailing on Explorer has 6 port/islands stops so they really wouldn't be the ship much, what is there 1 sea day?   They should be able to entertain themselves for 1 sea day on Explorer, they may be exhausted by then.

 

I personally love the southern Caribbean sailings but the younger ones would love CocoCay too.    

    

did you check airfare?     airfare may be your deciding factor as it tends to be a couple hundred more to fly to San Juan than to FL.    

 

Yeah, Explorer has a significant savings over Harmony that equalizes the increase in airfare which makes it a wash overall for cost...so it's really down to content!

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My vote is go for the Explorer sailing out of San Juan.    Let the 14 - 20 yr old experience some nice islands they can explore and learn history, etc.    Some great snorkeling with those islands too!

I raised 2 young men and when they were older teens they didn't want to do stuff that "kids" did.   I guess it wasn't cool - LOL!

Explorer has the flowrider, minature golf, ice skating rink, rock climbing wall, enough to keep them busy for their 1 day at sea.    

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I would choose Harmony for better entertainment, more food choices, more on board activities and less port days.  Six port days is a lot and could be crazy to coordinate with a large group.  Explorer's itinerary is definitely better, but I would go with Harmony, especially with kids and new cruisers.

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Harmony out of Port Canaveral for a couple of reasons:

Easier (and probably cheaper) to fly to MCO than SJU

More sea days rather than an island a day

 

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40 minutes ago, cbaker1974 said:

They are split unfortunately!

Harmony with 6000 passengers would feel far LESS crowded than Explorer with 4200.  Oasis Class was built to be the destination, not to take you to one. 

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Another factor if they have never been on a cruise before either ship would impress. But food and entertainment is way better on larger ship . Agree either option should be fine , good luck.

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Harmony hands down with kids. Heck after being on oasis class my wife and myself cant do anything but oasis class anymore because of how much more there is to do. 

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Sunshine3601 said:

Allure had issues before covid, so cannot really base it on age of the ship 

new cars break down too!

We've never had a problem with Allure and enjoyed it very much in 2019.

The ship that broke down is older than Allure. And Explorer is even older than the broken down ship.

Edited by Itchy&Scratchy
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58 minutes ago, Itchy&Scratchy said:

We've never had a problem with Allure and enjoyed it very much in 2019.

The ship that broke down is older than Allure. And Explorer is even older than the broken down ship.

Allure had issues with its propulsion system and they had to change itineraries on many cruises end of 2019,/beginning of 2020 because they ship couldn't go any faster than something like  15 or 18 knots.   I believe there was at least one cruise that had to dock early or was cancelled because they had to do a temporary fix, then they changed itineraries. 

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Posted (edited)

I wouldn't do the cruise from san juan. It adds a level of complication that might turn off new cruisers to how easy it is to cruise. You can see from my signature I love the ease of cruising from home. Unpack once and see the sights.

 

To me the ships are not equal either. Harmony beats explorer by a mile. I want the more to do newer ship every time.

Edited by firefly333
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Was explorer ever able to complete her amplification? I know it was postponed at one point. I'm curious how much difference there would be in activities if she has completed her amp. I've only done Harmony (with DD who was 19) and several of the Sovereign classes (with DW, we are both 50's). Unless you are suite class or key, shows etc. have a long wait time or early sign up on Harmony (JS on Harmony with Key worked out pretty well, this was march 2019 so key was pretty new). Harmony is a great ship though. Have explorer booked for 8 day southern next august.

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