In this latest post from guest contributor and cruise enthusiast, David Wishart goes on a cruise on the world’s largest cruise ship.

The Mediterranean summer is here and with it a flurry of big, new ships; not the best timing as demand is down because of concerns about security in Turkey and migrant issues. But while some are having second thoughts, others are taking advantage of reduced fares.

Pool Deck (©Simon Brook-Webb Photography)

Pool Deck (©Simon Brook-Webb Photography)

As new ships usually sail full, there were few worries among Royal Caribbean executives when they presided over the launch party of the biggest of them all, Harmony of the Seas.

She might be the biggest cruise ship in the world, but Harmony of the Seas is not unique. Two sister ships are already in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, and another is coming along in two years.

All are remarkable vessels, if only for their size, moving more than 6,000 passengers in great comfort while being lavished with lashings of restaurants, bars and other accoutrements of good living.

Having said that, the sheer size originally put some people off, including myself, as my cruise writing focus steered me towards small, luxury ships with as few as 112 passengers. Harmony of the Seas is humongous at 227,000 tons with 18 decks, five times the size of the Titanic.

Rock Climbing Wall (©Simon Brook-Webb Photography)

Rock Climbing Wall (©Simon Brook-Webb Photography)

I did not sail on the first ship in this class, Oasis of the Seas. When the second, Allure of the Seas, came along, I thought I would risk a few hours on a day visit, for I had noticed a trend with big ships creating exclusive, luxury sections rather like first class and steerage in ocean liners of old.

Allure of the Seas did not have a separate, gated community, but it did have some amazing suites which were increasingly  popular with multi-generational travel, and there was something else — curry. I got a whiff of it heading into a meeting with tourism and port authority people. When the droning started I slipped out and followed my nose to a restaurant doing a lunch buffet. And there it was, the best curry I have ever had afloat. I was a changed man, and when I received an invitation to sail on the third ship I set course for the waterfront.

Getting aboard Harmony of the Seas was a breeze, handled well by a legion of staff who knew their jobs and smiled as well. Getting to my cabin was another matter, for this is a long ship, and corridors that seem to go on forever. Go easy on your hand luggage and never forget  your sunglasses.

The Boardwalk and The Ultimate Abyss (Royal Caribbean Cruises)

The Boardwalk and The Ultimate Abyss (Royal Caribbean Cruises)

Then we were off, Harmony of the Seas floating on a sea of bubbles, technically an air lubrication system, that are injected under the hull creating an effect like a board on marbles. As a result it is the fastest ship in the fleet. It is also incredibly smooth.

The Pefect Storm (©Simon Brook-Webb Photography)

The Pefect Storm (©Simon Brook-Webb Photography)

All of which makes an ideal platform for deck after deck of entertainment, such as Royal Promenade, where you can go shopping, pop into a pub and buy a slice of pizza. Three decks higher is Central Park, a leafy seaburb with swish restaurants and wine bars as well as Cartier and Bvlgari boutiques, all overlooked by towering cabins.

The top deck has most of the 23 pools, water slides and flowriders, surf lessons on a wave pool, a rock face for climbing, a zip line, three water slides and a thrilling “dry slide” — the Ultimate Abyss, in which brave souls ride an enclosed tube down 10 decks. Thoughtfully located near the start is the Wipe Out bar.

Elsewhere, in fact almost everywhere, there is a place for a pint or a mojito, and for a bit of fun there’s the Bionic Bar with robotic barmen. Mind you the bill includes a tip. In cruising some things never change. I liked the wine bar in 150 Central Park where the servers had that small, simple quality – they smiled.

Jamie's Italian (©Simon Brook-Webb Photography)

Jamie’s Italian (©Simon Brook-Webb Photography)

The maitre d’ and staff at the 150 Central Park restaurant were equally charming, and the black cod was outstanding. This one of the restaurants where you pay extra, but the elegant 150 is well worth it, as was Jamie’s, where the bruschetta, prawn linguini and desserts are first class.

Note that while there are 20 places to eat, the popular ones get booked up, so reservations, ideally online before you board, are essential. You even have to book for the theatre, although there are two shows each evening.

It all adds up to a busy, buzzing ship where there is always something going on. It’s great for kids — who wear wristbands with a GPS connection so they don’t get lost — and the young at heart. The theatre has a production of the musical Grease, along with comedy acts, plus a nice little jazz venue, and a superb indoor skating rink with ice shows.

Skaters performing 1887 (©Simon Brook-Webb Photography)

Skaters performing 1887 (©Simon Brook-Webb Photography)

What Harmony of the Seas does not have is a library, just an indoor card room with two bookshelves of paperbacks. But spectacular views and quiet can be found in the adults-only Solarium area.

Downloading a book, a newspaper or a film is also possible because Royal Caribbean ships have what they claim to be fastest internet afloat. Certainly it was good enough to bring a live soccer match to a big screen.

Royal Caribbean built this ship on the basis that this is what their customers want. Bar a few trifles, no complaints were heard. Certainly not from me when I went to the Windjammer for lunch and found not one, but three curries. I could also mention the fresh blueberries for breakfast, and the clever shower door in the bathroom of my balcony suite. None of the dreaded clingy curtains.

The ship will be home-ported in Barcelona for a summer of Mediterranean cruises, and last time I looked, it was not sold out. For more information, visit Royal Caribbean’s website.

Royal Caribbean’s Bionic Bar, powered by Makr Shakr (Royal Caribbean Cruises)

Royal Caribbean’s Bionic Bar, powered by Makr Shakr (Royal Caribbean Cruises) Updates

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Featured Image: Aerial of Harmony of the Seas (Royal Caribbean Cruises)

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