Over the Christmas break, my family and myself with the additional of my brother’s girlfriend went on a 7-day cruise on the Harmony of the Seas with Royal Caribbean. This Cruise marked the first time in 17 years that my family has travelled together since our trip to California back in 2000. This cruise was also to celebrate my father’s retirement. The 7-day Western Caribbean cruise ported in Labadee, Haiti – Falmouth, Jamaica & Cozumel, Mexico. These were the same ports as my previous cruise but this was the only one that worked with the timing of all our schedules. My parents are frequent cruisers so we were able to get on-board credits that we all put towards an excursion together (sort’ve).
The Harmony of the Seas is one of the largest ships in the world soaring over 17 decks high. It offers the fastest and most widespread internet service –Voom over water, The Abyss –giant slide from the 17th deck to the 6th deck, 2 flowriders for surfing and boogie boarding simulations, mini putt, rock climbing, ziplining, an outdoor gym, a spa/gym, outdoor track, 5 pools, 5 jacuzzis, a skating rink, a casino, an entertainment deck, a formal dining area, a promenade and much more.
Online check-in is supposed to help you get boarded faster. You get to print out your seapass and your luggage tags (print in colour). You go through security before boarding. You are allotted 2 bottles of wine to bring on the ship if you like otherwise, all alcohol must be purchased from the boat. Apparently all the early check-in things we did meant nothing, as we had to fill in that information and retake our photo again.
We flew to Fort Lauderdale to board the boat. You can take the Cruise transport, which is $11USD/person OR if you have a group – grab a taxi for cheaper transport to Port Everglades.
You won’t have access to your Stateroom until roughly 1-3PM as they have to clean them from the previous cruise. When the room is ready, you will find your room key/sea pass card in an envelope by your door with your luggage sitting outside your Stateroom. The new passengers can start boarding as of 10AM until 430-5PM before the boat departs.
You have the option to carry your luggage (if it’s small enough or carry on size) or you can choose to check it and just carry your passport, seapass print out and credit card.
You can opt to purchase the WOW wristbands for $5USD to replace or as an addition to the seapass card. The seapass/wristband asks as your credit card, ID and room key on board. You do need your Seapass card when you are at a Port and decide to disembark the ship for security purposes.
The boat uses a App called Royal IQ which you can use on your phone (additional fee if you want on-board chatting). With this app, you can reserve shows (for you and others by name), check your statements and see the program and itinerary for the day.
NOTE – There are hidden gratuity fee of $11-13USD/day which in the end pays the staff.
We got to the airport for around 330AM for our 645AM flight. Funny how a family with the last name U all books tickets together yet my name is the only one that can’t get checked in beforehand. As I went to the kiosk to check-in, my ticket comes out but as I am showing it to get to the first part of security, the lady takes a highlighter to my ticket. Turns out the SSSSS on my ticket means I’ve been randomly selected to be searched – yay….
At the airport, I repacked my personal backpack with a change of clothes, swim suit and flip flops because your luggage gets taken away from you and you won’t have access until 1-3PM.
We went straight for food at Windjammer and then to the solarium to sunbathe for a bit. Windjammer is the main eating establishment at the back of the ship. Buffet style. The Solarium is the adult’s only Jacuzzi section with giant egg nesting loungers. The Solarium also has an eating establishment – The Bistro (not as big as Windjammer and less variety). We walked around the ship to check out our “home” for the next week.
There is a mandatory emergency meeting where we are clustered into musters. The muster is shown in large print on your Seapass card. Our muster station was the gym.
We finally departed around 530PM and since the Harmony of the Sea is one of the largest ships in the world – you don’t actually feel it moving (not that often) as it is a floating island. The cruise was full of families celebrating Christmas and the holidays together. There was 6780 guests in total on the ship.
Dinner at Windjammer and we ended our evening watching the Grease broadway show.
First day cruising so I woke up, went for breakfast (ate way too much) and then decided I was going to workout – good and bad decision. Seeing as we were on a cruise ship over the holidays, everyone was trying to stay in shape especially the day before Christmas. The gym was super crowded and people (including me) were just trying to find a space to get our workouts in. I grabbed some dumbbells and found a spot by the mirror. After doing a half decent workout, I walked the track and came back to stretch.
After my workout session, I found my brothers and Tammy and hung out in the Solarium area to lounge and tan. We eventually got up and ate lunch at the Bistro. We walked through Central park and the Boardwalk then went back to our Statesroom to shower and just relax out of the sun.
We had made reservations to watch the Ice show 1887 in Studio B. Not 100% sure what the storyline was but nonetheless entertaining. The website description describes it as “a magical journey inspired by Jules Verne, legendary author of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. This exhilarating, time-traveling journey blends fantasy with reality“. The cast from Grease put on a special Christmas Carol show in the Opal Theatre.
We had booked a formal family dinner that night at Silk -formal dining. The service is a little slower but the atmosphere is more upscale than say Windjammers. You can order as many apps and entrees as well as desserts as you want. I got the escargot, duck terrine, osso bucco and creme brulee.
After the formal dining, we went back to our rooms to change and went to the Attic on the entertainment deck to watch the comedy show. At 11PM, in the nightclub they held the Hush party – a silent dance party where all guests wear headphones and with a flick of the switch, you were either listening to one DJ or to another DJ. It was a very fun experience but more entertaining when you take the headphones off and hear people singing to the songs.
Our first port of the cruise was in Labadee, Haiti. We woke up early – around 7AM, ate together around 8-830AM at the Bistro. We departed the ship by scanning our Seapass cards. The port of Labadee has been renovated since the last time I was here (back in 2013) due to natural disasters and just expansion. This port is manmade and a private port for Royal Caribbean. It features 2 beaches, an outdoor water obstacle course, a water slide with hidden cabanas into the mountain on one side. There are canopies and ziplining the other side open to the main waters.
The volleyball court moved into the middle beside the kids water park. My full family set up beside each other and just hung out on the beach. Since we were ported and it was a private beach, lunch was a BBQ style buffet beachside.
After lunch, we headed back on board. We tested to see if the gym would be less busy in the afternoon. I got a little arms workout in. After the workout, I found my parents and brother and we just hung out in the Solarium for awhile before heading back to the room to shower and watch some TV and Dreamworks movies.
We met back up with my brother and Tammy to have Christmas dinner together at Windjammers. For once, our family didn’t have to host and cook a turkey and ham which was a nice little break and have other people do it for us. We had reserved the Headliner show for after dinner. The Headliner show starred Ronn Lucas who is a well known ventriloquist. He has entertained royalty to presidents and had his own show back in the day. He was really good. The promenade had 50’s-60’s music night. We called it a night after grabbing a slice of pizza from Sorrento (the only 24 hour food establishment) in the Promenade.
Ate at Park Cafe then to land we went – Cozumel, Mexico. It’s so strange to see other cruise ships docked right beside our boat making all the rest look tiny in comparison. The port basically was a outlet shopping centre but you can also go out into the city. We made our way to the excursions area to line up. From there we were put into specific taxis to bring us to Uvas Resort (uvas means grapes) which has a spa, bar, pool and of course our excursions of clear kayak and snorkelling. Our guide Angel and Louis made the day really fun. My first time kayaking and with the guidance of Jo I think I got the hang of it. I had attached the go pro to the selfie stick and held it with the paddle to get some cool angles but I guess the paddle hit the release button and my go pro sunk into the water. Luckily, we had just gotten into the water so it wasn’t too deep so my hero for the day Louis dove down and retrieved it for me. We were only in the kayaks for a short period of time before we switched to snorkelling. It was a great experience as there are coral reefs which we went over.
Back in the port area, we did a little shopping then back onto the ship to make it in time for volleyball. After a few hours of playing we went for dinner in Windjammers (surprised? I think not). We had timed it perfectly so we could go straight from dinner to our show which was Come fly with me starring performers from Hairspray and the other productions – the performers are multi talented and I guess because they are on the ship on contract, they provide entertainment in a variety of ways. There was some pretty cool acts like the aerialists and gymnasts. Right after the show, we decided to line up for the comedy show and we are so glad we did because the acts were great. Simian was my favourite who actually knows Tokyo Disneyland theme song and dance by heart.
Final night on the cruise ship in cruising mode. We decided after that that we should try Flowrider. It’s actually more difficult than it looks. Jo and myself went in just our swim suits with no shirt to cover up on top and Jo was wearing a strapless. You can tell where I am going with this… NOTE: wear a t-shirt over your swim wear. Final session of volleyball then we quickly washed up and headed to Windjammers for dinner then straight to the comedy show where we bumped into our volleyball crew. On the final night, you pack your things and leave your large luggage in the hallway so the crew can relocate it to its proper section for when you depart and check-out from the ship. We attended farewell party at Blaze Club and met all sorts of people from around the world including a couple named Brooke and Christina who are both in the army and don’t get to much time with each other as they are deployed for 6-10 months away from one another. Christina turned 27 at midnight and they had been dating for 6 years and married for 2. It was a good night.
Final morning breakfast before disembarking the floating island of a ship. We ended the trip the way we started – in lines. Security checks, luggage pick-up, final ship check-out, airport security and waiting in a crowded airport only to have your flight be an hour delayed with you sitting in the plane for 30 minutes before even moving.
All in all, this was a great experience and for a person who was skeptic about cruises, I would most definitely do a cruise again. Although I would much rather do my own thing, for a short trip where not much thinking needs to be done except choosing what free shows to see, where to eat free food and whatnot, this type of travelling is perfect for it.
Woke up and made our way to Johnny Rockets for breakfast (which is free for breakfast only) then made our way to the track where we did a nice walk around to take in the view and wonderful weather since we had worked out the night previously. When we finally docked, we made our way to the Artisan market and I grabbed some Blue Mountain coffee beans. Shortly after, we met with our group to go on our horseback riding and swim excursion with Chukka tours. From Falmouth, we drove an hour to another parish named St Ann’s – Bob Marley’s hometown. We also drove through Usain Bolt’s hometown of Trelawny.
In Jamaica, they drive on the left like Australia and London. There are houses alongside the highway that look run down or abandoned but in reality they are houses that are slowly being built. Their way of life is to save a little and build a little to customize their homes or even to expand on the land to share space with family. They have a motto about Jamaica as everyone is seen not by the color of skin but as equal people – “out of many, one people”. It’s only been 51 years that Jamaica is independent as the Spanish ruled the land until 1665 when British took control until 1962. English is one of their national languages as well as Creole however it’s a different broken down version. Wha ta gwan is how they say how’s it going? To say yes is yeah Mon; no is e e with a head shake like a dolphin noise. Irie is how they say it’s good. And they have words that are made up of different languages like yes siouiya which is English-spanish-french-german. To introduce yourself to the group “I” isn’t used to describe yourself as “me” is what they would use. So it would be “me name is Rosanna, me from Canada, me live Toronto, me like mangoes”.
Our guide Courtney for horseback riding was full of great energy. My horse’s name was Imagination. We rode through a course that was beautiful and very fortunate for us to be in. Crazy to have the opportunity to ride horses in the water too. Make sure your feet aren’t too far into the stirrup and to hold tight enough to control their movement. It was a cool experience (my first time riding) but I felt bad for the horses when we were in the water as they are trudging around and panting a little from the energy they are using and salt water. When we finished our ride, we ordered jerk chicken with rice and jerk sauce – so good especially with a cold Red Stripe beer. An hour ride back to the port kicking back listening to the music of Bob Marley. Being from Scarborough, we grabbed a Jamaican patty to see how good it would be. I think back home has better as it seemed like the ones here were just meat paste and not thick at all (mind you, we did purchase from a stall in the port and not locally).
Back to Opal theater for the Headliner show that consists of 5 men and just their mouths being the instruments. We grabbed front row and centre seats since we arrived early. The show was well performed but at times it got awkward when you locked eyes with the performers. We made our way to On-air where karaoke was happening and watched for a bit before heading to solarium for a dance night.
It’s a cruise day. We went to solarium for breakfast which is suppose to be the healthier option but it just didn’t taste as good (go figure). We then lounge on the top deck for a few hours before heading to Central Park to have lunch in Park Cafe where you can make customizable salads and paninis. We caught the tail end show of the belly flop competition. Back to Opal theater for bingo where we unfortunately didn’t win but used a electronic bingo unit. The ship feels like an island in itself that each floor holds something different. By now, Windjammers was our go-to spot for meals. We attended the Summer Breezes performance back at Opal theater where cast members of Hairspray performed with the Oasis band. There was a fountain performance which was basically what it is; the water fountains going off with lights to music. We left and headed to the Promenade where it was 70’s boogie night. There was another dance night happening but I all of a sudden got hit with motion sickness/headache which was the only time on this trip I had even felt the ship. It’s strange to be on such a large vessel that you forget you are at sea.
We woke up to find our bodies burnt from the sun the previous day.
We went back to opus for buffet breakfast which features smoke salmon. Right after breakfast, the ship docked at Labadee Port and intercoms announcements about the schedule for the day. We left the ship and hopped on a little speedboat for our Haitian cultural tour which took us to a private beach where we were dropped off in the water (knee high waters) to walk to shore. We were given complimentary drinks with Haitian rum. Our guide Pierre brought us around this little section where we saw some of the plants the Haitians use for everyday uses. Haitians try to use all the natural resources to make their life easier by living off the land. The country has been under major turmoil but they make the best of what they have.
We were shown an example of what some of the houses they live in which consist of structures made from branches, leaves, mud and clay. Pierre told us since he was a child when it rains he would just get naked and take a shower and till this day he continues to do so. We saw locals demonstrating everyday life routines such as a fisherman making lobster traps out of bamboo. Did you know they use fruit to capture lobsters – fact: lobsters are vegetarians. We saw local ladies making peanut butter with nothing but Haitian peanuts and using a mortar & pestle then adding some pepper flakes for a little kick. It is absolutely delicious. We were also shown the same technique for making coffee. Over a hot stone surface, they made cassava bread/pizza/naan which was made with just shred cassava and sugar. Our little haven of a beach was lovely with white sand and palm trees that nestled us from the sun.
In Creole to say hello/what’s going on you say Sak pasé and they answer nabulé.
Returning to the main beach at Labadee Port which is owned by royal Caribbean, we ate jerk chicken and ribs along the beach side (all provided by the cruise line). At the very far depths of the beach, there were a few beach courts where we managed to find our BC friends Joel, his wife Anita, their boys Rylan & Landon as well as their friends Ian and Ramira. The water was wonderful but rocky. We played volleyball for a bit then would occasionally take a dip. The area was nice but it was hot and the courts had rocks stabbing at your feet. We spent majority of the day on the island before heading back to our room around 230-3PM. We then rested for a bit then went back up to the Upper deck to Wipe out to make ourselves nachos and grab ice cream.
The promenade will have nights where there are sales such as a $10 blowout sale on items such as scarves, watches, bracelets, ties, wallets etc. Our first show of the evening was by the front deck on the 14th floor below the solarium to take in the Sunset in Haiti. Once the sun went down and we made out way over for the Oasis Dream Aqua theater for their performance. It’s an amazing show with people diving from all over the place including the very top of the 16 floor ship to the 6th. To describe how spectacular and well coordinated a show it was is to let you know the the stage runs on hydraulics but looks like a normal stage however the platform lowers and becomes a pool which gets lowered and raised for certain routines which is such a crazy thing because worst case scenario, the stage isn’t low enough when the diver jumps it could be their demise. There is also a trampoline that is built into the floor that rotates in. Great show and also so many good looking people with great bodies. We moved from that show to another – Jerome Bell performance. Jerome was on American Idol and now stars as Seaweed in the musical Hairspray on the ship as well. After the show, we walked around the boardwalk and grabbed some cookies and pizza before deciding to head back to our room and changing to go workout.
I went on my first cruise with Royal Caribbean – Oasis of the Sea on their 7 Night Western Caribbean Cruise. I travelled with my friend Joanne. We picked up a last minute deal and flew down to Fort Lauderdale with WestJet and with our deal we also have included gratuity and airport transfers. We boarded the boat at Fort Everglade (a 10 minute drive away from the airport) and cruise for a day before we arrive in Haiti at Labadee port which is it’s own private manmade beach area. So what is there to do while we cruise; tons of activities on the boat.
To check in, you go from line to line but that is expected with such a large vessel. After the airport transfer we had a security check then a final check in where we received of sea passes which is like the octopus cards in Hong Kong. It’s cool as they embed your photo into the strip of the card. We were then led to walk the boardwalk on the 5th deck of the ship which looks like a mall and not a ship. We then went to the solarium which was suggested for food as there are healthier food selections. Aftering finally settling into our statesroom, we booked our excursions: cultural tour in Haiti, horseback riding in Jamaica, clear kayak and snorkel in Mexico adding up to $220USD.
In line to book, we met a family who was suppose to depart the same week on Carnival Dream (the boat that broke down at sea) who got the last room on Oasis as someone cancelled. Shortly after booking our excursions, we decided it was time to start soaking in the sun as much sun as we could for the day as it was already 330PM by that time. We stayed outdoors for awhile but realized we had a show that night. The entertainment on the ship is free but you do have to reserve spots (you can call in from your room or book at info desk) We went back to our room and got ourselves ready for dinner and also caught the first sunset aboard. We went to the Windjammers Marketplace for a casual dinner buffet located at the 16th floor at the butt of the ship. Our show for the evening was Frozen in Time – A show on ice. On ice you say? yes, there is a skating rink on the ship. By far the highlights were the couple that did amazing tricks and one handed to no hands tricks and Alexa the sand artist illustrating a story with sand and her hands. After the show we had a second wind and took to the on-board running track and hit the fully loaded gym for a workout.
You lose track of time on-board a ship. I woke up early and I went directly to the top deck to catch sunrise. It’s nice to see that some people do appreciate a nice sunrise. I walked around almost falling over as the force of the wind came shooting at me. We went for breakfast at the Opus dining buffet. We were “cruising” today so a full day spent on the ship sailing to our first destination. From there we grabbed our seats poolside and planted ourselves there for a good 5 hours soaking in the sun even with the crazy amount of wind. It’s so awesome how there is free soft serve ice cream built into the walls with rotating featured featured flavours.
Continuing trying out all the food options, we went to Wipeout cafe for a late lunch and then back to the room to change for the volleyball competition on the sports court. They have a full sized basketball court on the upper deck with mesh netting surrounding the entire open air top so balls don’t get launched off or around the ship. When we arrived, we made friends with a family from British Columbia. Joel and his sons Landon and Rylan. We also met some other cool people to play with like a group from Georgia – Morgan, Will and Keith. We lost the competition unfortunately as three boys weren’t allowed to play because they were under the age of 18 but we did play again when it became open gym time. We then returned to our rooms to quickly changed for the formal dinner in Opus dining. It is a nice feeling to get dressed up for a semi-formal dinner. The dining experience was nice but it took a while for food to be served which you get instantaneously from the buffet style of the other food options on the boat. From there, we did some cosmic skating. We walked the crowded promenade and made a friend at promenade cafe where they had a great selection of cookies and desserts. We then rushed to the Opal theater to watch the last showing of Hairspray.
Boarded the Oasis of the Sea in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and travelled through to 3 separate ports:
I travelled with my friend Joanne.
The time on the boat also known as it’s own floating island, there is plenty to do and see. Take in a comedy show, go skating, climb the rock wall, surf on the Flow-rider, gamble in the casino, take in a show, swim in one of the 5 pools, eat to your hearts content and so much more.
Woke up at 5AM and left around 630AM on a very brisk morning. The thing is with Contiki, you have restriction on the weight and size of your luggage (20kg) so that morning we had 3 Contiki tours leaving simultaneously lining up to get our luggages weighed and on the right coach bus. Our tour guide was Sophia, a fellow Canadian (French Canadian) who looks like the blonde version of Selma Blair. She is very friendly and very informative (there will be tons of facts being injected into my journals sporadically that are told by Sophia). Our driver was Christian and he is beyond what words can describe but is one crazy upbeat guy. His parents were originally from Sicily and Morocco but he was born in France. We are a group of 51 so it will be interesting – I have the best seat in the house – the very back middle seat so I had all the leg room. We headed to the Port of Dover (we saw the white cliffs of Port Dover) and took the ferry over to France – Galais enroute to Amsterdam. We also passed through Belgium. Being on a bus with around 50 other people, Sophia had multiple icebreakers. We did a version of speed dating to meet the other people on our tour which was cool.The youngest on the tour is 18 and oldest I met was 30 from places such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico, USA, Japan, London and also a few Canadians. I even got complimented on my accent… thanks…?
Facts of Belgium:
Belgium has Arnold Schwarzenegger-like cows because they are chemically enhanced.
Belgium is also known for Smurfs, Tin Tin, french fries and the world’s tallest man.
It’s the Japan of Europe with a population of 10 and half million.
Facts of Amsterdam:
The population is 17 million for Netherland- 750,000 in Amsterdam.
More than half of the country is under sea level.
They built canals and dykes to create housing and farming.
There are more canals in Amsterdam than Venice.
12 million bikes in Holland alone with 200,000 bikes that end up in the canals.
Some of the best museums are located here such as Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh and Anne Franks’s house.
Pickled herring is a dutch delicacy.
They drive on the right side of the road as opposed to London or Australia where they drive on the left.
They are also known for pancake based foods such as mayo and frites and salted licorice.
Edam and gouda are dutch cheeses.
Yes marijuana is legal. The limit is 5 grams per person if you purchase weed. Mushrooms have been recently banned since 2008. However, you cannot smoke a joint in the street or cafes.
Prostitution is legal and about 25,000 prostitutes work here however they are part of a union called the Red Thread.
We finally arrived in Amsterdam at our hotel for the night – Hotel Nieuw Slotania. The final 2 girls that were to join our trip had arrived. Being a group of 3, one of the latecomers stayed with us. Her name is Alanna and she is from Australia and is our age. She graduated from uni for Exercise Science. Dinner with the group – buffet style and then a “booze” cruise – unlimited drinks for a 90 minute boat ride along the canal. The tour bus drove us to Centraal Station where we boarded the boat. Inside had seating and a bar in the back. It was beautiful to see the different parts of Central Amsterdam. We then docked and majority of my group went to a Sex show where people have sex on stage in front of you. We (Crystle and Klarice) opted out and explored on our own to find some cake to celebrate Klarice’s birthday before heading back to the hotel.