Aboard the Harmony of the Seas

Harmony of the Seas

Royal Caribbean makes good use of the new ship’s extra length, wider beam.

On a two-night preview sailing of Royal Caribbean International’s 5,479-passenger Harmony of the Seas, the line’s third Oasis-class ship, Travel Agent was impressed with how it combined Quantum- and Oasis-class features on a grand scale. The 226,963-grt ship spans 16 guest decks with seven neighborhoods, including the popular Central Park and Boardwalk areas.

Our favorite jaw-dropping feature was the “Ultimate Abyss,” a 100-foot-long slide cascading down 10 decks in the aft section of the ship. Riders climb stairs leading to the slide platform, walk over the clear platform suspended above a 90-foot-plus drop, and then enjoy a thrilling multi-sensory experience during the slide itself.

Thrills? Data from a Royal Caribbean test of the slide, as supervised by Professor Brendan Walker, director, Thrill Laboratory, UK, revealed that the experience caused heartbeats to rise by an average of 44 beats per minute compared to the resting rate for a 30-year-old adult of average fitness. When the ship is totally full on a regular sailing, there likely could be longer lines, but we liked that the Harmony of the Seas has other adrenaline inducing options nearby on deck 16, including a zip-line and two FlowRider surfing pools.

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More Snazzy Features

Longer than Allure of the Seas at 1,188 feet and a bit wider, with a beam of nearly 216 feet — as well as 20 percent more energy efficient — the new ship is the fastest in Royal Caribbean’s fleet and a city unto itself.

Guests will discover 42 restaurants and bars; four swimming pools, including an adults-only pool in the Solarium; multiple whirlpools and FlowRider surfing pools; a large ice rink; multiple theaters; a casino; a full-service spa; shops; rock climbing walls; and more.

Entertainment-wise, much is new. The 600-seat Aqua Theatre has two new water shows. “Fine Line” features extreme stunts and acrobatics, while “Hideaway Heist” is a comedy dive show. The ship also offers the line’s first dedicated Puzzle Break escape game, and the Attic is a new comedy club.

New productions include the musical “Grease” — for the first time at sea — and “1887: a Journey in Time”, a fun new French-themed ice show.  We were most impressed by the latter with its costumed ice performers in historic French garb; the production unfolded against a backdrop of ultra high-definition video designed to resembled the Seine. It’s great for kids of all ages.

What else is new? Sure to appeal to younger passengers is a dedicated satellite that enables the high-speed VOOM Internet service and a Royal IQ app for quick check-in and the booking of dining and activities. In addition, the ship uses a razzle-dazzle new RFID (radio frequency identification) system to track bags, stateroom entry and onboard charges.

Specialty Dining

Harmony of the Seas has eight specialty restaurants, including the first two-story, 122-seat Wonderland. The concept was initially launched on theQuantum-class vessels, but this is the largest of those offerings. Jamie’s is the first such eatery on an Oasis-class vessel, and also has more space than the ones on the Quantum-class ships.

Of the eight specialty restaurants onboard, we best loved Wonderland, loosely based on the Lewis Carroll novel and Johnny Depp movie. It’s a fantastical experience with a tunnel like-entry, whimsical art and waiters in purple velvet jackets.

Fun touches abound. We loved the menu that revealed itself only after you painted it with a special brush. An appetizer of deviled eggs appeared from beneath a dome of smoke. A “wow” moment was when a dessert was set ablaze to melt an outer chocolate shell — revealing a moist, delicious cake. All entrees are served to be shared so guests dining together can try everything.

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Izumi, a Japanese dining venue, is the first of those restaurants in the fleet to offer teppanyaki. So 24 diners can now enjoy the chef’s sizzling show on the grill. With just 70 seats for sushi, it’s best to book clients for a meal here as soon as they confirm a sailing.

We also sampled the Italian cuisine at Jamie’s ($20 per person at lunch, $30 per person at dinner), Latin dishes at Sabor, and high-end continental fare with multi-course tasting menus and wine pairings at 150 Central Park.

All of the above are more intimate than the main dining rooms. The ship’s specialty dining venues carry surcharges and online pre-booking is essential.

For a casual, yummy treat, definitely check out the Dog House on the Boardwalk, where cruisers can choose from seven different kinds of succulent hot dogs with toppings of grilled onions, peppers and sauerkraut.

Drinking spots worth a mention? Certainly, you shouldn’t miss the mesmerizing Bionic Bar, where two robotic arms create cocktails from 160 suspended bottles and 16 mixers. We also liked the concept of the Rising Tide Bar, essentially a pod of cocktail tables on a platform that rises and drops — seemingly floating between three decks. Vintages, with its an impressive selection, is the place for wine lovers.

Larger Accommodations

The new ship’s increased width means slightly larger accommodations than on other Oasis-class vessels. That’s particularly true for the staterooms on decks six and up. Virtual balconies, a signature of Quantum-class ships, are also offered in 76 of Harmony of the Seas’ inside cabins, a first for an Oasis-class ship.

We stayed in stateroom #9264, a 272-square-foot Ocean View Stateroom with an 80-square-foot balcony. The stateroom felt spacious with a king bed, sofa, desk and two wardrobes with shelves, drawers and a safe.

We toured many other accommodations and particularly liked #8660, a 371-square-foot Grand Suite with Balcony; the king bed area is separated from the living space with a half-wall / half-curtain divider and there’s a large marble bathroom with two sinks.

Most luxurious and spacious for families? It’s #12640, the 1,142-square-foot Presidential Family Suite, which can accommodate up to 14 guests. It has four bedrooms — two with king beds, two with bunk beds — and sofa beds. There is also an additional sofa bed in the main living room. Most spectacular is the 476-square-foot balcony with whirlpool, dining area and bar.

The Royal Family Suite, #10244, is 580 square feet with two king bedrooms with vanities, a nook with bunk beds, a spacious living room with convertible sofa, plus a 238-square-foot balcony. Modest family rooms designed to sleep six are also available.

Royal Suite Class Program

Royal Caribbean has just rolled out a three-tiered Royal Suite Class program for guests staying in suites (excluding junior suites). The three tiers are Sea, Skyand Star class.

Benefits range from access to dinner in the 100-seat Coastal Kitchen on Deck 17 for Sea Class to Suite Lounge access, concierge services, priority bookings and free VOOM for Sky Class.

The most robust perks come with Star Class. Ten suites on Harmony of the Seasqualify for this level of amenities. Included are all the features in Sea and Sky class, plus access to a Suite Sun Deck, a beverage package, free movies, spa classes and exclusive activities such as bridge, galley and back stage tours.

An added level of pampering for Star Class is the Royal Genie butler who greets guests and tends to your every need, creating bespoke experiences and excursions. Guests in these top suites will be whisked to the front of any line, generally ensuring they never wait or want for anything on Harmony of the Seas. Star Class Suite guests fill out a questionnaire before the cruise so the butler will begin preparations for their arrival.

Pampering and Fitness

Top features of the Vitality at Sea Spa include a thermal suite with heated ceramic loungers, saunas and steam rooms. Twenty-nine spa treatment rooms include three couples’ massage suites and seven individual treatment rooms — the largest collection at sea.

Kids and teens have a dedicated spa of their own, YSPA. Certainly, the Fitness Center impresses with its large selection of cardio and weights machines; yoga,Pilates, TRX, spin studio and kick boxing classes; and personal trainers available to assist.

Family Entertainment

Beyond the Ultimate Abyss and water slides, guests can head one deck below — to Deck 15 — for mini-golf, a sport court and ping-pong. That area nicely flows into the family areas, including the Teen Zone, an arcade, Fuel (the teen night club) and Puzzle Break. As you continue on to the bow, you’ll see the aptly named Splashaway Zone with its trio of waterslides.

On Deck 14, the central Kids Avenue boulevard links such spaces as the Royal Babies & Tots nursery and Adventure Ocean, the line’s supervised kids’ club. Around the ship, you’ll also see Dreamworks characters floating around the restaurants at times. The Boardwalk neighborhood is home to a large colorful carousel and carnival games. The ship also has rock-climbing walls.

A Gallery Afloat

Art aficionados amongst your clientele will especially appreciate the ship’s spectacular $6.5 million art collection, brimming with paintings, sculptures and other pieces displayed in public spaces and accommodations. International Corporate Art curated the more than 3,000 unique pieces from 60 countries.

The Ship’s Itineraries

Launched in May, Harmony of the Seas is operating seven-night western Mediterranean sailings through early fall. In November, it will reposition and homeport at Port Everglades, FL, where will sail alternating seven-night eastern and western Caribbean sailings.

— Source;  Travel Agent Central

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10 things you’ll love about Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas

Published on November 20, 2015

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Royal Caribbean’s thoroughly modern, 4,200-passenger Anthem of the Seas is now officially cruising from its new homeport of Bayonne, N.J., after a summer cruising from the UK. The state-of-the-art, $1 billion “smart ship” is a knockout from stern to bow.

The line made some very minor tweaks in moving the six-month-old ship from a British-focused audience to the New York market – no more teakettles in the staterooms, for instance. But the ship’s robot bartenders and such experiences as simulated skydiving deserve wows on both sides of the Atlantic.

Here are our favorite things to do on Anthem of the Seas.

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Try indoor skydiving: If you’ve always wanted to fly but have been afraid to jump out of a plane, RipCord by IFLY is your chance to experience the wind-in-your-face exhilaration on a cruise ship. You put on a flak suit and get in a clear, vertical wind tunnel where your cheeks wobble as you follow your instructor’s directions and float in the air. For those who demure, there’s nearby stadium seating where you can watch the skydivers — as well as other brave passengers attempting to stand on surfboards at the FlowRider wave pool.

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Go high on the North Star ride: They couldn’t quite fit a Ferris wheel, but Royal Caribbean simulates the at-the-top experience with this big, glass capsule, which holds 12 and gets lifted by a giant mechanical arm high above the pool deck and sea. Get your camera ready for photos that will amaze your friends.

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Smash on bumper cars/go roller-skating: The SeaPlex is one of the most amazing spaces we’ve encountered at sea, an indoor sports center with a rink where at alternative times you can smash into fellow passengers on bumper cars, play basketball or volleyball and go roller-skating to tunes played by a DJ in a floating booth. There’s also opportunity to climb a very tall ladder for a real flying trapeze experience (with substantial padding on the ground assuring a bouncy landing). Bonus: There’s a stand where you can get a complimentary hot dog with the works.

Order drinks from robot bartenders: Have B1-O or N1-C fix you a drink. They staff the Bionic Bar, and while they aren’t the best bartenders in the world (no creative mixology here) they do happen to be robots. You order your drink on a tablet, and your vodka tonic or fruity rum drink gets delivered in a plastic cup via a conveyor belt. These headless, mechanical arms aren’t particularly good at listening to your woes, but they do occasionally dance, eliciting squeals of delight from onlookers.

Headbang at the Music Hall: Pretend you’re seeing the real thing as you scream along with first-rate tribute bands — Bon Jovi, Journey, Led Zeppelin – and classic rock cover bands, such as the excellent Vegas act Phoenix, in this two-deck live music venue. The scene is loud and energetic and even a tad sexy, thanks to the sultry red decor. The huge dance floor assures a lively party scene.

Rock out at We Will Rock You: The songs of the legendary rock group Queen, and a storyline that has to do with a future age where rock music is banned, form the basis for this award-winning West End show. Warning: After seeing the full-length production you’ll spend the rest of your cruise with tunes such as Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Bohemian Rhapsody stuck in your head.

Do bites and beer at Michael’s Genuine: Some of the best eats we had on the ship were the for-a-fee nibbles at this gastrobpub, created by James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz. Try the polenta fries and the chicken liver crostini ($4 each). The accompanying craft beer menu includes British beers from such brewers as Brewdog and Brooklyn Lager and Michael’s Genuine Home Brewon draught.

See Spectra’s CabaretThis avant-garde show will dazzle those who like a great spectacle. Aerialists, singers and dancers interact with digital screens – both wraparound and controlled by robotic arms. It’s a visual stunner.

Surf the net: Royal Caribbean has made much of its VOOM Internet – with speeds that match broadband on shore. On our preview cruise (with fewer passengers onboard than usual) it worked great – you could send and stream video without watching your laptop spin.

Get interactive with the artwork: The ship’s 3,000-piece contemporary art collection is anything but staid. There are works with light and videos and that move, and there are pieces you can touch – such as Rafael Lozano Hemmer’s smart pad-operated Pulse Spiral, which reflects your heartbeat in twinkling lights.

For more information contact The Cruiseman (800) 889-7683
www.cruiseman.com
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Top Places to Eat Po’Boys in New Orleans

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New Orleans natives are known for their discerning culinary palates, so you know when a mere sandwich grabs their attention (and hearts), it’s got to be one amazing sandwich. Along-standing tradition in New Orleans, po-boy sandwiches have been around since the late 1920s and now can be found at nearly every casual restaurant. Fried seafood or tender meat is stuffed inside freshly baked French bread and slathered with hot sauce or remoulade. Start your po-boy tasting tour with our list below, or head to the annual Po-Boy Preservation Festival to get the full experience.

What Is a Po-Boy?
A po-boy is a sandwich made with Louisiana-style French bread (think crispy baguette with soft, fluffy insides), which is usually stuffed with fried seafood or tender meat —  anything from house-made hot sausage to barbecued gulf shrimp. Order like a local and ask for the sandwich “dressed,” it’ll come loaded with lettuce, tomato, pickle and mayonnaise.

Huck Finn’s Café
Huck Finn’s Café has it all if you’re looking for a Southern dining experience: flavored daiquiris, spiked lemonade, pecan pie and, of course, a menu packed with po-boys. Go all out and try their smoked alligator sausage po-boy, which comes drizzled with creamy remoulade sauce.

Mother’s Restaurant
The frequent line out the door and the sumptuous aromas wafting out from inside are the first clues of the deliciousness diners encounter at Mother’s Restaurant. The cafeteria-style joint has been serving up home-cooked standards for more than 60 years, and one of the reasons the local keep coming back is for their juicy po-boy. Stack your roast beef po-boy high with debris (gravy) and have a seat at this uniquely New Orleans institution; you’ll quickly understand why New Orleanians always seem so happy.

La Bayou Restaurant
La Bayou Restaurant knows New Orleans ingredients, and the proof is in the po-boy — the Big Easy Po-boy, to be exact. It comes loaded with seasoned gulf shrimp, fried green tomatoes and a Louisiana-style remoulade, all served with a side of French fries.

Johnny’s Po-Boys
Even though Johnny’s Po-Boys has a menu touting more than 50 po-boys, such as country fried steak and alligator sausage, a locals’ favorite is the soft-shell crab po-boy. Piled with battered, flash-fried soft-shell crabs, this crunchy, seasonal sandwich really shines when it’s served with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and a splash of hot sauce.

Central Grocery
Traditionally speaking, Central Grocery is known for the other famous New Orleans sandwich, the Muffuletta. However, they’ve been perfecting sandwiches since 1906, and we trust them with the ways of a po-boy. Try a different take with the veggie po-boy.

Learn more about the famous cuisine of New Orleans.

Source:  New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau

Top 10 Myths About Cruising

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By Jim Antista  “The Cruiseman

Although 15 million people will cruise next year, many travelers are confused because they heard one of these myths. Cruising is a wonderful vacation option. Don’t let myths, rumors or miss-information keep you from having your very best vacation ever!

10.  I will get seasick.

Only sissies get seasick!  Today’s cruise ships are very stable and seasickness is a rarity. For those prone to seasickness, there are many remedies available, including “sea bands”, tablets, and a little patch that you wear behind your ear. However if people see your patch they may think you belong to a cult!

9.  I will catch a Noroviruses.

Noroviruses can be found almost anyplace with lots of people in close proximity, not just cruise ships. The CDC requires cruise ships to report outbreaks. It does not require schools, universities, hotels or businesses to report. So, you can see how unfair that is! Your best protection is to wash your hands frequently between trips to the buffet!

8.  I’ll have to spend a lot of money onboard the ship.

In an effort to keep the basic price low, most mainstream cruise lines charge for things that could be considered “extra”.   However your cruise fare includes your cabin, 8 meals a day, and the traditional cruise ship amenities such as a swimming pool and excellent entertainment. You can cruise and only pay for tips and drinks if you choose. It all depends on how tight you are!

7.  I have to dine at assigned times and with people I might not like.

We once were assigned to a table with a couple from Croatia that didn’t speak any English!  That was fun! We asked the head waiter to move us, and he did. Problem solved!   So, you can move to another table, or you can sign up for open seating, or you can graze at the buffet until your belly pops!

6.  Cruise ships are crowded.

I have never been on a cruise ship where I could not find a quiet corner to read a book or be alone with my wife. Although a cruise ship with over 3000 passengers can seem crowded at times, it is no more so than most hotels, restaurants, or resorts.  The most crowded places are around the pool on a sunny day, and the buffet at feeding time!

5. I don’t like beaches so I won’t like cruising.

Since most cruises go to the Caribbean, many people associate cruising with this beautiful part of the world. However, a cruise is more than sitting in the sun by the pool, sandy beaches, or sparkling blue waters.  If you don’t want to go to a beach, take a “city tour”, a sightseeing trip, or go shopping.  And don’t forget … cruise ships visit every continent, and anyone who loves to travel should be able to find a cruise destination that appeals to them.

4.  Cruise ships are packed with old people.

People of all ages love to cruise!  Multigenerational family groups are huge now. Every cruise ship has a special program for the children.  Cruising is for people of all ages.

3.  Cruise ships are packed with party people.

Maybe in the bars late at night!  The one thing all cruisers have in common is a love of travel and having fun, which doesn’t necessarily equal wild partying. Cruising is actually very family friendly.

2.  Cruise ships are dangerous.

Cruise ships are very safe.  In over 20 years of cruising I have never felt that I was not safe. And, remember in times of bad weather, a cruise ship can change itineraries, and move to safer waters. Land based resorts can’t move!

1.Cruise ships are boring.

Only if you’re boring!  Seriously, you can be as active (or inactive) as you like. Cruise ship activities range from working out in a high-tech gym, rock wall climbing, zip-lines, going down the water slide, swimming in the pool, to sitting on the deck and reading a book. You can learn computer skills, a foreign language, how to play bridge, or how to dance. Cruise ships spend all day in port, so you can explore all the fascinating parts of the world.