While I usually prefer smaller vessels with fewer passengers, I nevertheless was amazed at the immense size and scope of this ship and its number of activities and attractions. It began service in May 2016, and was built in St. Nazaire, France. The Harmony has capacity for 6,780 passengers with 2,747 staterooms. It contains a crew of 2,100 that represent 65 nationalities.
Also, the ship has seven so-called neighborhoods with various activities, including a rock climbing wall and a huge slide. I did neither. It has 16 decks, 24 elevators, 10 restaurants, and three shore exits for quick departure of passengers for tours and pleasure. All these facts are meant to demonstrate the immense size of the ship and its variety of activities. You almost need a tram to get from the front to the back of the ship.Our first of three stops was at Labadee, Haiti, an isolated and secluded beach enclave that is owned and run by Royal Caribbean. The area has several beaches and areas for barbeques. Also, I enjoyed exploring a market area with shops run by Haitians that sell crafts and hand carved goods; I bought a hand carved cane and a small painting.
Our next stop was at the relatively new port of Falmouth, Jamaica. It was once one of the busiest ports exporting sugar and importing slaves. It now retains some large Georgianstyle mansions. It is near the home of Bob Marley. It is close to the ports of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. I took a shore excursion, but unfortunately we had a day of heavy rain. We drove through the countryside and through the tropical rain forest of fern gully, a national park. Because of the rain we spent some time shopping at a new center that is all too typical of Caribbean ports, which I find a little lavish. They are usually full of jewelry shops and crafts made in China.Cozumel, Mexico, a very busy port and popular cruise site, was our final port stop. I took a shore excursion that featured the largest Mayan ruin on the island. We walked among several remains of platforms, temple remains and a preserved entrance gate. Our excursion also took us along the beaches of Cozumel and a tasty stop at a working chocolate factory. The trip is typical of the very many cruise ships that sail to ports in the Caribbean and Central America. American tourists use them as escapes from the winter weather and snows. They have become all too familiar and identical because of the many shops at the ports. But anyway, they offer an escape that American and other tourists enjoy. So be it. Dave Pattison has lived in Marco Island since 1999. He has traveled to every continent and over 100 countries, and still takes five-six trips annually. Dave is a well respected travel writer, winning first place in a Florida Press Association contest. Dave was a lawyer/lobbyist for the insurance industry, and had worked in the White House for four years before retiring. A widower, Dave has four adult children and five grandchildren.