HARMONY of the Seas is big.
Really big, record-breaking big. The enormous vessel is 362.12m from bow to stern – longer than the Eiffel Tower is high – and officially became the planet’s biggest cruise ship when it joined the Royal Caribbean fleet in May and took the title from older sister Allure of the Seas by 12cm.
But there’s more to like about this ocean-going colossus than sheer size, and its 18 decks are packed with features that guarantee there’s never a dull moment, or an empty stomach, while cruising the high seas.
So here are 10 things we love about Harmony of the Seas.
1. Let’s face it, we all like the numbers, and this ship can claim an impressive collection of statistics.
This Bahamas-registered vessel has 2747 cabins capable of carrying 6780 passengers, 2100 crew from around the world and 4908 restaurant seats . It weighs 226,963 gross tonnage, which is more than 17,000 elephants, and just one of the four bow thrusters releases the horsepower of seven Ferraris.
There are more artworks on the walls than the Louvre has paintings and drinks menus feature 340 wine varieties and 40 brands of beer.
Guests choose from 40 types of bread and 100 different pastries all baked on board, and 1.8 million litres of fresh water is consumed every 24 hours.
2. With so much floor space Royal Caribbean needed to give different areas of the ship personality so created seven “neighbourhoods’’ across 16 passenger decks including the youth zone, sports zone and Royal Promenade – which is like a glitzy Beverly Hills shopping mall with designer shops and cafes.
The Boardwalk has a Coney Island atmosphere – there’s an old-fashioned carousel, Starbucks, 1950s burger joint Johnny Rockets, a souvenir shop, and bar for afternoon margaritas – while Central Park is a leafy enclave to wine and dine in with a real garden growing around meandering footpaths.
3. There’s no shortage of choice when it comes to selecting a spot to sleep, with 20 stateroom categories, from exclusive double-storey apartments high on deck 17 to 76 interior cabins featuring Royal Caribbean’s unique “virtual balconies”, that present a real-time view outside to those sleeping in a windowless room.
All guest suites enjoy contemporary colour schemes – gone are psychedelic tones, replaced by cool shades of grey and blue – and 1768 chambers have a balcony including those rising above Central Park and the Boardwalk, as well as the traditional “outside’’ cabin.
4. Enjoying a show on Harmony is now like a night at a Broadway theatre, rather than a cheesy Las Vegas cabaret, with Royal Caribbean securing the rights to Grease and casting a talented ensemble to perform the much-loved musical.
Harmony is also home to the innovative Aqua Theatre – the deepest swimming pool at sea, perched at the stern Boardwalk – with a troop of synchronised swimmers and daredevil divers presenting a dynamic show on, above and below the water that must be seen and heard to be believed.
5. Eating is an art on Harmony of the Seas and there are 20 restaurants dotted around the decks, with the standard dining room and buffet options supplemented by a selection of specialty restaurants to offer more than 300 individual meal options every day of a cruise.
Jamie’s Italian is in Central Park – the Jamie Oliver eatery, serving handmade pasta and delicious charcuterie planks – beside 150 Central Park, where the menu is shaped by award-winning chef Michael Schwartz.
Chops Grille is the place for steak, Sabor for Mexican, and Izumi for Japanese while Wonderland employs a whimsical Alice in Wonderland theme to expose passengers to a theatrical, and mysterious, meal-time experience.
6. As well as being one of the newest vessels, Harmony is also one of the greenest, with design features and innovative technology ensuring the ship glides through the waves to consume less energy.
“It’s a lot of things that come together – the lighting system used LEDs as much as possible, we have efficient airconditioning and galley equipment – to make Harmony more efficient,’’ says captain Gus Andersson.
7. Cruisers asked for fast wifi and Royal Caribbean obliged by installing Voom on its newest boat ,with the company sending a dedicated satellite aloft that guarantees speedy internet access quick enough to watch a Netflix movie, listen to a Spotify playlist, Skype, read a newspaper online, browse websites, and attach photos to an email.
8. There may be 184 bartenders, mixologists and drinks waiters on board, but one of the coolest places to indulge in a tipple is the Bionic Bar where passengers use a tablet to order cocktails before a robotic arm mixes and serves their beverage.
The vessel is also home to the Rising Tide Bar, which is a compact capsule that gently climbs and descends between decks, from the Royal Promenade to Central Park.
9. Fun parks are now standard on new cruise ships but Royal Caribbean has exceeded expectations by adding the Ultimate Abyss – a dry slide that plunges 10 decks – and a trio of twisting cylindrical waterslides known as The Perfect Storm.
There’s a zip line on deck 15, two FlowRider wave pools and a climbing wall with an ice rink, basketball court, running track and minigolf course.
10. There are 23 indoor and outside places to get wet on the French-built vessel including swimming pools, spas, waterslides and the FlowRiders.
The writer was a guest of Royal Caribbean International.
This story originally appeared in Escape on Sunday, September 11, 2016