From December 2 through December 9th, my husband, sister, and my parents were able to take an unforgettable 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise that left from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and visited St. Thomas of the Virgin Islands, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and finally, Labadee, Haiti on the largest cruise ship in the world-Harmony of the Seas of Royal Caribbean cruises.
Months before the cruise, I never imagined I would be able to afford one. Last year, my husband was able to secure an amazing job that afforded us this opportunity. My mom, who has Stage 4 Breast Cancer, booked this cruise as part of her bucket list items to cross off. So, I knew I had to go as it would be memorable in that sense, but also an experience that I didn’t think I would be able to get!
Thank God I jumped in and invited my husband and I because I was on the largest cruise ship in the world, and I was able to enjoy everything it had to offer, which was A TON!
OUR GORGEOUS, GIANT SHIP
To say my cruise was an unforgettable experience would actually be an understatement. It has been nearly a week since I left for my cruise, and I am in a definite depression. I keep thinking of all the exciting activities we did, and my husband and I are already thinking of our next cruise trip!
OUR ROOM WITH AN OCEAN VIEW BALCONY
When I first walked into our stateroom (as they call it), I realized this vacation would be one to remember. Here are pictures of our room (with an ocean view balcony), and a picture of me very happy to be there:
Every stateroom had an assigned room attendant, who made up the room 3 times a day. Each time they made up the room, they replaced towels, made the bed, vacuumed the floor, emptied the garbages, wiped down the balconies, folded clothes that are laying around, and, to our amusement, they made animals out of towels. Here is one example of a crab our room attendance made for us:
By day 2 of the cruise, we referred to Harmony of the Seas as “our ship, our home” because it felt that way. We were on it for many days, but the crew also made you feel as if you were “home”, so to speak. They waited on us hand and foot, all of the time. They made sure we were happy, well-fed, and had the best time of our lives.
Our first trip was to St. Thomas of the Virgin Islands, which we hated. Throughout our visit on the island, we kept saying to each other, “I can’t wait to get back on my ship.” It certainly felt like ours.
THE HARD-WORKING, DOTING EMPLOYEES
Most of the employees on the ship were from a different country. Our room attendant is from Jamaica and our assigned waiter is from Honduras. All of these employees work on a 7 month/2 month contract in which they work every day, all day, for 7 months straight and then have 2 months off, then are back on for another 7 months straight. We asked our waiter, Edwin, about this and he says he does it because the pay is good and he needs to support his family back home. He mentioned it is difficult, but it is worth it. I certainly couldn’t do it.
There were employees literally everywhere, even in places I didn’t think there’d be any! They were always there to ensure we had what we needed and/or wanted. All of them, at least who we ran into, were friendly and always had a big smile on their faces.
All of the employees treated us like celebrities or like royalty, at least that’s how we felt. They called us “sir” or “maam” every time they spoke to us. They remembered our names; they greeted us wherever we were on the ship; they ensured we had everything we needed at all times; they were always around to offer drinks or a hand with something. The ship seems to have their guest’s happiness, comfort, and excitement at the top of their priority list.
When we docked at the ports of the different islands we visited, there were employees on the piers waiting with ice water and towels. They were always quick and happy to help my mom navigate the piers, the islands, and the ship (she was mostly confined to her scooter as it is difficult for her to walk).
There were over 6000 people on this ship, so one would think the lines would be ridiculous and a nightmare. However, the crew did an amazing job at getting people through the lines when we docked to visit the islands, when we ate, when we boarded and deboarded the ship, and when we got back on the ship after visiting an island.
Everything was so well-thought out and well planned. The only problem we had were the elevators. Since there were so many people on the ship, it did take awhile for us to board an elevator. But that is my only complaint and not really something that is fixable.
We left our waiter and our room attendant a nice tip for their excellent services. I know waiters at restaurants work hard for tips, but these employees’ generosity, hard-work, and friendliness felt genuine.
THE EATING EXPERIENCES
I couldn’t believe the food and the convenience of food this ship had to offer. Every stateroom has an assigned table, eating area, and eating time for dinner. Our eating area was on Deck 3 of 17, at 5:30PM, and our assigned table was in the best location-in a corner away from people, directly in front of a circular window to which we could see the beautiful ocean. Since we were on Deck 3, we were closer to sea level, so the view was even more incredible:
Unfortunately, the very first night we ate dinner here, I was incredibly seasick. I felt lightheaded and like I had a constant headache, and I felt horribly nauseous. The food looked and tasted amazing, but I simply could not stomach more than 4 bites.
I was disappointed because everyone else was thoroughly enjoying their meal, and all I could think about was getting back to our room and puking so I could feel better. And I did just that. It really sucked. I ended up resting and laying in bed the rest of that night. When I woke up the next morning, I still felt lightheaded, but I took a Dramamine and felt so much better. Then, we ate there again that night and I was able to enjoy the delicious, high end food they serve for us.
For dinner every night, there are four courses served: bread, appetizers, entrees, and desserts. We can order whatever we like, and how much we like. For example, if you wanted 3 appetizers, you could get 3 appetizers. All of it is free. One person ordered 15 lobster entrees one night-the food intake is whatever we wanted!! My dad ordered 2 of everything each day on the cruise besides the last day. It finally caught up to him. What made this even more exciting is that the food is like what the rich people eat.
They served snails, caviar, lobster tails, prime rib, and a bunch of other foods that none of us could pronounce. Literally everything we tasted was AMAZING. There was only one dish I didn’t like, but it was because I simply don’t like beets, but everything else was to die for. We were so spoiled at dinner because we were allowed to eat whatever we wanted, drink whatever we wanted, and eat/drink how much we wanted. The only condition is that we had to be out shortly before 8PM as that was when the next round of guests came to eat (before the cruise, you chose to eat at 5:30PM or at 8PM; we chose 5:30PM). In addition, the assigned waiters are always there-Edwin, our waiter, was the best waiter I ever had. He was always happy to bring us whatever we wanted, and he was always there. We never had to ask for him.
Foodwise, this is what we loved most about the ship: we could get a hot-dog, pizza, fruit, ice cream, hamburgers, fries, nachos, and pastries at any time we wanted, for free. The best part of all of this was the convenience-want a pizza at 10PM? Go to Sorrentos. Want an ice cream cone at 9PM? Go to Deck 15. Want a quick hamburger and fries? Go to Mini Bites also on Deck 15.
My family joked around that once we got home, we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves without the convenience of these foods, that we would still be looking for pizza and ice cream at night and then being disappointed that we’d have to actually pay for these items and DRIVE to get them! I must say, it has been quite the reality check since I have been home, although I do eat much better now =)
There were four of these little food areas on the ship: one served hot dogs, one served fruit and pastries, another served the hamburgers, fries, and nachos, and the last served pizza. You can get as much food from there as you’d like. My dad and husband usually got 3-4 slices of pizza at once!
There were also two ice cream machines on the ship, at the pool area, in which all a guest had to do was pull out a cone and choose a flavor. I probably ate 20 ice cream cones during this trip-more than I typically consume in a summer!
For breakfast and lunch, there were two main food buffet areas that were also completely free, and all-you-can-eat and drink. The food wasn’t nearly as good as in the main dining area where we ate at night, but it was still delicious and made us full!
One in particular, Windjammers, was where we went every morning for breakfast and sometimes for lunch. This buffet literally had everything you could think that is a breakfast food. I stuffed my face every morning. It was amazing!
Usually in the mornings, when I am home, I drink coffee. I was super excited to try the coffee on the ship, but when we did, we realized the coffee drinks at the main café were terrible. I can make better at home. My sister and I, coffee freaks, were so unimpressed and disappointed. We had to resort to our usual coffee with half-n-half. There was a Starbucks on the ship, but you had to pay a dollar more than regular prices AND they automatically add 18% gratuity to each drink, so we rarely went there because it was so expensive for us. The black coffee with cream was tasty though, but I was still disappointed every day when I couldn’t enjoy the ship’s specialty coffees simply because they tasted like flavorless, burnt coffee.
I am pleasantly surprised that I only gained 2 pounds on this vacation. I was so sure I gained at least 10 due to the readily available, yummy food options.
Maybe this was because of how large the cruise ship, that we did a LOT of walking around to experience it all.
THE ENDLESS ACTIVITIES ON THE SHIP
There are 17 decks on this giant ship. Only the richy people can access deck 17, as that is where the suites are located. They have their own source of fun on that floor. More power to them, we had several other floors that we could explore. Their loss.
Floors 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 14, 15, 16, and I am sure others that I cannot recall, all had restaurants, shows, and activities to keep us busy.
Before we left for our cruise, we could reserve (for free) spots in as many shows as we want. My mom’s travel agent reserved spots for our group for every single show. We didn’t have to go if you didn’t want to, but at least they were reserved in case we did.
The shows were not cheesy or performed by people with okay talent; the stars of the show were incredibly talented and never made ONE mistake. It was unreal.
We saw two water shows in which several men and women dove from hundreds of feet in the air into a small pool below them (I closed my every time), they performed water stunts and stunts in the air. Never, not once, did they make a mistake.
We saw an ice skating show that was likely performed by past or current Olympians because they performed stunts that I would think only an Olympian would be able to do.
We also saw a concert performed by (I forget his name) a man who played in Las Vegas and who travels the world. I got a video of my parents dancing to him, and my husband, sister, and I also enjoyed the songs he sang.
We played Bingo, saw a comedy show (which was the best I’ve ever been to), danced at a bar, watched Jazz, played in the casino, ate at delicious restaurants that did require payment, played mini-gold, and watched people waterboard, rock climb, slide down an incredibly tall slide, and zipline on the ship. There was so much to do that even if we didn’t get off at the islands, we would have been occupied all day long.
THE POOLS AND HOTTUBS
This ship must know its guests love to swim, soak in hottubs, and drink because there were about 15 hottubs on the ship, 4 pools, 3 waterslides, and 4 bars on the pool deck alone.
Since there were over 6000 people on the ship, the amount of hottubs and pools was great because whenever we went in one, the pool or hottub were not overcrowded with people.
The hottubs were a great size; they could hold about 10-20 people. Two of the hottubs were right against the wall of the ship which was made up of windows, so it felt like we would fall in the ocean, but the view was what drew us as we could see a nice panoramic view of the ocean!
Speaking of the ocean, sitting on my ocean view balcony was my favorite thing to do on the ship. Even if you never leave the ship to go visit the islands, there is so much to do!
If you are considering or are hesitant to go on a cruise, I would highly suggest that you simply go! I am a firm believer in trying everything at least once, so you can at least have that experience, good or bad. In my case, this experience was 7 days with my family that I will never forget.
Now go book your cruise vacation!
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