This weekend, Royal Caribbean’s new mega-ship, Harmony of the Seas came to Southampton. Sadly, I missed it as I was away on Carnival Vista, but lots of press, bloggers, vloggers and other folk were invited to sample life on board the largest cruise ship in the world on a weekend mini sailing.
Harmony of the Seas is truly a maritime wonder, capable of holding 6000 passengers, it’s the third in Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class, along with Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas.
I love the idea of the different neighbourhoods on board: the Central Park area on board Allure was one of our favourites – a leafy, open air park surrounded by lovely places to eat – and there’s a similar one on board Harmony. Then there’s the Boardwalk area with casual dining, an arcade, even a Starbucks. Add to that an incredible mixture of dining establishments, both free and, if you want to splash out, those with a small fee (always, we feel, incredible value), including Jamie’s Italian and the brilliant, whimsical Wonderland. Then there’s the miriad of pools, Splashaway Bay aqua park for the littlies, amazing kids clubs, innovative new attractions like the Abyss and the lovely, peaceful adults-only solarium, fantastic entertainment, bigger cabins… and as far as I can figure, Harmony has all the best bits of the other two ships in its class, and more.
I was so disappointed, then, to see that one of the top Google searches was quite a sneery, snide article in the Guardian (I won’t link to it, but you’ll find it easily enough) with snarky references to the Norovirus, quite an alarming amount of poo references (being ‘flushed’ down the slide, the ‘arse end’ of the ship, etc), a snide mention of staff ‘from the developing world’ and the usual ‘monstrosity’ jibes.
The thing that makes me sad is that, if you ignore all the snobbery and affectation, the writer and his family actually enjoyed themselves. Yes, they were in the grey, wet English Channel, not the azure blue Caribbean sea, so the joy of waking up and opening your cabin curtains to a glorious view and the promise of a day exploring a new country was lost on him, but time and again he admits to having fun: singing along to Grease: the live musical (which I’ve heard is awesome), liking the friendly staff and enjoying the food. It’s almost as though his brief was ‘don’t you dare enjoy it’.
What is it with the cruise industry? Why does it evoke such condescending views? I see that a huge ship like this (bring on the ‘concrete tower block’ jeers) isn’t for everyone, but the opportunities for family fun, relaxation, exploration, fantastic dining, entertainment and sheer, squeal-inducing fun (I would direct you to my flow-rider video) are unbounded.
Yes, you’ll queue occasionally, but then you queue at airports, and if you pick a swanky all-inclusive in Mauritius, I would imagine that someone ‘from a developing country’ will still be cleaning your room. I don’t get the lifts thing either. With the amount you eat on board, we always hit the stairs anyway.
We had a fantastic family holiday on Allure of the Seas back in 2014 (and Mr E, who claimed not to like cruising, still says it’s one of his favourite holidays ever). We laughed, played, ate and explored as a family, and if these huge ships aren’t your cup of tea (although I always think that after sail-away, it’s incredible how everyone seems to disappear), cruising offers such a diversity of experiences. Don’t fancy a mega-ship? Try a relaxing river cruise or yachting on the stunning SeaDream. There really is something for everyone.
Let’s just stop with the snobbery eh?