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From harmony to Harmony

by Véronique and Mike

30 May 2016 • I was kind of excited to go and visit the biggest ship in the world: the HARMONY OF THE SEAS. Not that I’m not excited to go on any other boat. For example I loved the ferry crossing with P&O from Calais to Dover. We had Club Class so got to enjoy the panoramic view overlooking the bow of the ship. 

First stop in the UK: some rest and peace in a wonderful part of England that I did not know yet: Kent. Of course Mike did, and he was the perfect guide to introduce me. Thanks to yet another strike in France we had to leave one day earlier than planned in order to arrive on time. Mike booked a room in the oh so charming White Cliffs Hotel in St Margaret at Cliffe near Dover. Next to their charming rooms and pub, they have a big open-air terrace where we had breakfast. The hotel owner made interior objects himself with things he found on the beach, such as seashells. It’s all about authenticity here. And they make their own beer. What more do you need? 

In need of some fresh air after the drive, we went for a midnight walk to the beach. Don’t know if I would recommend walking on a trail in the woods without any flashlight but we did and enjoyed it… a lot. The sound of the sea against the pebble beach, standing there, just us and the nature…priceless. Mike wrote a blog post about the hotel if you want to read more.

Next day after a short stop to St Margaret’s Bay and the picture perfect pub The Coastguard (Britain’s nearest pub to France) we started our long drive to New Hampshire. Destination New Forest! Did you know there is a national park where ponies, cows and donkeys can roam freely without any fences? I didn’t! So while you drive through the park you will see them quietly graze in the street borders and walking in the street like they own it! The peace and harmony of this place is amazing. 

Our next home away from home was The Beach House Hotel. I could see the sea from our nicely decorated room in a cottage next to the actual hotel, a former Victorian mansion . Even better a walk to the sea promenade was just minutes away. Just wished we could stay longer… 

But the purpose of this whole journey was a press trip on the biggest cruise ship in the World, the HARMONY OF THE SEAS. I must say getting on board has never been easier. Many staff members of Royal Caribbean were available in the Southampton cruise terminal with tablets to make this check-in as fast and pleasant as possible. A swipe of the passport and a quick health questionnaire and we were all set to go on board. The cruise card was waiting for us at the cabin, so no extra waiting for that neither. I was happy to discover that we had an outside cabin with balcony and not one with a virtual window (which actually looked quite real -see photo below). That contact with the sea is what I love so much about cruising. Frankly I retreated many times to my balcony (even in bad weather) to relax and feel the connection with the sea.  

A cabin with a virtual window

But what about the ship? It is huge but doesn’t feel overwhelming. It has as expected endless eat, drink and play options. There is something for everybody’s taste.  For example; you can dine at Jamie’s (by Jamie Oliver) where it’s all about family style, relaxation and sharing, eat sushi at Izumi Hibachi, make your own pizza at Sorrento’s or enjoy gastronomy at 150 Central Park. On the two days on board we did not get to try all the restaurants. We did try Wonderland. The idea here is to work with the senses and the natural elements. You are invited to paint your dream on a canvas to make the menu visible. We loved what they served, especially a specular chocolate desert. The buffet restaurant Windjammer has plenty to offer (like most cruise ships do) with even a special fridge with gluten free bread and cake … There is the cocktail bar Bionic, more popular to be photographed than actually composing your own drink where robots do the actual work. 

Dinner @ WonderlandWonderland restaurant with a view and executive tableCreating a drink in Bionic and doing it all wrong. As a result I ended drinking pure rum

The thing that impressed me most on Harmony of the Seas was the stellar entertainment. The impressive Ice Show with incredible costumes made on board, the music show with Tenors of Rock (known from The voice UK), the musical Grease (world premiere) and the intimate jazz concert in the jazz bar. 

Grease musicalAzure Mc Call with the Manny Kellough All Stars

My favourite areas on board were the adults-only Solarium where there are loungers and you can actually enjoy the sea view. There is also a restaurant with a smaller buffet than the Windjammer with some healthy options. Next we both loved the Jazz on 4 bar. The Park Café offered a breeze of calm on a busy ship for a quick breakfast or lunch. In the spa, the Vitaly Café, was also a good spot for an espresso or fresh made juice. For a fee you can buy freshly made smoothies. I was impressed by the art pieces on board, very diverse and colourful.

The Solarium...of course better when there is sunOne of the 11.252 art pieces on board

I was excited to try the zip line and THE attraction on board; the Ultimate Abyss, a dry ten-deck-high slide. But due to the bad weather several attractions were closed on the second day and I could not experience the thrill I heard so many people talk about. I have to keep in mind to always try those things when arriving on board or asap whenever possible. A courageous guy was trying the Flowrider in the rain, trying to surf the waves with the sport team in a small basin. Something I see myself try but then rather in the Caribbean. Same goes for the multilevel water slides (The Perfect Storm) or the rock climbing wall. 

The pink pipes in the distance are the Ultimate Abyss

The ship is divided in seven neighbourhoods. The most impressive ones are the Central Park neighbourhood with real flowers and trees and the Boardwalk (Coney Island inspired), carrousel included. 

A view on Central Park at nightRiding a carousel on a cruise ship...all is possible

To be honest, the ship was not 100% ready yet and lots of workmen were finishing their work on board. Not that it was disturbing. More important I saw lots of happy faces, people enjoying themselves, young and old.

I would say this is a fun ship, with lots of indoor and outdoor activities and an easygoing atmosphere. 

Party time, the dynamism of the entertainment team is contagious

Before boarding the ferry back home, we spend some more time in the New Forest (it’s really close to Southampton), we walked through the nature park, saw many ponies and donkeys on our way. On our stroll we met other walkers, smiling and enjoying this peace of paradise. Everybody said hello, something we did not experience standing in full elevators on the big ship. There is harmony and harmony and I was happy to experience both in the same week. 

More photos of HARMONY OF THE SEAS: louagie.be

Info about HARMONY OF THE SEAS: royalcaribbean.com

We crossed the Channel with P&O Ferries

Text: Véronique
Photos: Mike & Véronique