Award-winning blogger and journalist Dave Monk recently completed a Mediterranean sailing on-board Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, here he shares his highlights and experiences on this Oasis-class ship.
My short cruise on Harmony of the Seas from Italy to Spain really began on a freezing day 13 years ago in Finland.
In November 2008, I helped turn the valve that flooded the dock where Oasis of the Seas had been built – the first in the series to claim the title of ‘the world’s biggest cruise ship’.
The interior was still a mass of bare steel, hanging wires and unfinished floors, but it was obvious then that it would be a game-changer.
The following year, I visited the finished version in Florida – at 40 per cent bigger than any previous cruise ship and able to carry 5,500 guests, it was enormous.
After Oasis came Allure and then Harmony, which I last visited on a rainy day in Southampton. It seemed almost a different ship when I stepped on board on Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, for a voyage to Barcelona.
With the sun beating down, even in the final days of October, hundreds of holidaymakers were out on the open decks, gathering around the many pools and luxuriating in the hot tubs. The more adventurous were hurtling down the waterslides or taking a turn at the surf machine.
I never cease to be impressed by the sheer scale of the Oasis-class ships, especially when taking a giddying look down six decks to Central Park, the leafy retreat that’s home to 12,000 plants and trees surrounded by restaurants and boutique retailers.
For an even loftier view, take the zipline at the stern of the ship dangling high above the Boardwalk – an area based on an English seaside pier with a wooden carousel.
The quickest way to descend the 100ft drop is to take the Ultimate Abyss slide. Scream as you twist and turn in the giant helter-skelter for 13 seconds before being expelled from the tube next to Johnny Rockets burger bar.
Turn round and you can walk to the Aquatheater where daredevil performers carry out spectacular dives from a 30ft-high platform into an 18ft-deep pool as part of evening shows that mix comedy, acrobatics and some mesmerising trampoline work.
Down below decks in the theatre, West End-standard singers and dancers belt out all the toe-tapping favourites from the much-loved 70s film Grease, giving Sandy and Danny a new lease of life in the story of two schoolyard lovers.
On deck 4 the ice rink plays host to a colourful show called 1887, combining skilful skating with other circus acts.
If all this makes you want to get up and show off your own vocal and dancing talents, there are karaoke and silent disco nights on board, as well as plenty of live bands.
Watch out as you walk along the two-deck Royal Promenade filled with shops, bars and cafes in the middle of the ship as you might run into Captain Johnny Faevelen riding his scooter-shaped Segway.
In this covered mall you’ll also find The Rising Tide Bar that gently levitates you to the level of Central Park.
As for the dining – as I was only on board for three nights, even I couldn’t manage to eat everywhere, though I have visited most of the venues on previous Oasis-class cruises.
One of my favourites is Chops Grille steakhouse, though other venues include Jamie’s Italian, sushi in Izumi and, of course, the seemingly ever-open buffet, Windjammer Marketplace. Plus there’s always the 2,500-seat main dining room.
And you’re never short of a bar, including one operated by a pair of robots.
Feeling exhausted? There are plenty of places to relax, from the warm, glass-covered solarium to comfortable lounges and the Vitality Spa.
Since Harmony was built, the title of the world’s biggest ship has passed on again to Symphony of the Seas, and the record will soon be inherited by Wonder of the Seas, launching in March 2022 before a European season beginning in May.
No doubt the sixth Oasis-class ship due to make its debut in 2023 will add another few inches to claim the crown.
These Royal Caribbean mega ships are not everyone’s idea of cruising. With all the lights, activity and noise, you can sometimes wonder – as I did on that first voyage on Oasis of the Seas – what ever happened to just standing on deck looking at the stars.
Nevertheless, you have to acknowledge the planning, engineering, imagination, dedication, hard work and detail that has gone into making every one a floating city of fun.
And to think it all began on that cold day in Finland…
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