Escape from the everyday has always been a prime goal of vacationing. Travelers on a cruise not only want to travel to other parts of the world, but they also want to travel away from ordinary living — and many will try things they wouldn’t at home.
Nobody knows that better than Royal Caribbean International. The company’s most recent ship, the 5,479-passenger Harmony of the Seas, offers travelers a safe intersection between idealized reality and wild fantasy.
Nothing could be more centered in an iconic form of reality than the awnings and sidewalk tables of dining venue Sorrento’s pizzeria or the trees and benches of the vessel’s Central Park. But guests will also find fantastical elements onboard, such as a 5-ton metallic human head sculpture by Czech artist David Cerny; a greatly expanded Wonderland restaurant; robotic bartenders; bracelets that open doors; and the “stowaway piano player,” which could appear on the ship’s elevators, by the buffet and in other unexpected places. In kid-centric waterpark Splashaway Bay, sea creature double as water cannons, and in Aqua Theater, 3-D images, optical illusions and more transform divers, acrobats and high-flying performers.
Guests can feel like the main character of author Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” when they dine in Wonderland restaurant, which has been expanded to two decks and offers “maddeningly delicious” menu items and magical, elegant decor. Mysterious elixirs whisper “Drink me,” dishes arrive shrouded in smoke, and the magic extends to the flavors of the unusual menu.
Out on deck, the familiar fantasy of the carousel is paired with the much more unusual ride of the ship’s new slides, which have been transformed from slippery speed runs to full sensory experiences. The most dramatic slide, Ultimate Abyss, has a drop of 150 feet and features twin slides made of stainless steel tubes about 2.5 feet in diameter. Adventurous guests step from a glass platform onto special mats and launch themselves at 9 mph through the toothy jaws of a fish along a twisting route 10 decks down, accompanied by audio effects.
With all of its special features, which are brand new and brought over from earlier Quantum- and Oasis-class ships, Harmony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship and 25th in the Royal fleet, comes in at a cost of more than $1billion.
Arriving in Barcelona in early June, the vessel will launch initial inaugural sailings of 34 seven-night Western Mediterranean cruises. In November, it will arrive in the U.S., settling in its homeport of Port Everglades, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to sail seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises.