The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas pin

Harmony of the Seas of the Royal Caribbean International is the world’s largest passenger ship at 226,963 GT. The ship carries over two thousand rooms and can house over five thousand guests. We were lucky to be hosted on one of Harmony’s inaugural voyages as part of Royal Caribbean’s advisory committee for autism travel.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas head

Embarkation

On our two nights trip to the Bahamas from Fort Lauderdale, we were accompanied by media people, others on the advisory committee, and travel agents. Embarkation was speedy. We encountered a small line when we got there because we were originally scheduled to arrive at 2 PM but decided to come earlier. Royal Caribbean prides itself on assisting families with autism, and a staff member did walk us through the embarkation process.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas wall

Ship Decor

The general décor of the ship was modern and elegant. While other ships typically have more flashy decorations, the Harmony of the Seas ambiance was more subdued with a few touches of color. Visitors will see many of the brighter bits in the Boardwalk and pool areas while the Central Park and Promenade are much more conservative.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas legs

We liked the fact that many parts of the ship are either completely open to the air or partially, providing many public areas with plenty of natural light. 

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas skeeball

Activities

This ship is part of the cruise line’s Oasis-class fleet and has family friendly features that the Royal Caribbean has developed in the last two years like the Sports Zone and different neighborhoods.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas car

The Boardwalk area is all about fun. Visitors can enjoy several stores and eateries.For amusement, the Boardwalk has plenty for kids, such as a hand-carved wooden carousel, two wall climbing areas, and The Ultimate Abyss. In the Ultimate Abyss, people slide through a ten-story high purple tube on a cushion from the top deck all the way to the sixth.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas window

There is also an Aquatheater with afternoon and night performances of a Cirque du Soleil-like show aimed to wow all ages. Our son with autism loved the various activities as well as the green rocking chairs where he could sit back and relax.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas gold

The Central Park area on the eighth deck boasted more adult venues. There is no real entertainment in Central Park, but the area houses several specialty restaurants. Like its NYC namesake, this relaxing garden features live trees and bushes, with fresh plants brought every few weeks on the ship. One can hear bird sounds, and not all of these are artificial. Real birds often ride in the ship’s Central Park between destinations.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas food

Similar to its sister ships, the Harmony of the Seas features the Royal Promenade with Sorrento’s pizza, a coffee shop/sandwich area along with several upscale shopping stores. These stores include brands like Le Vian, Citizen, Chanel, and Michale Kors. Visitors can enjoy “duty-free” shopping, meaning that these items are tax-free as long as the goods are purchased out of the country. 

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas carousel

The ship also has a huge Sports Zone on the top decks. For guests who love swimming, there are several indoor and outdoor pools with two FlowRider areas. Avid outdoor fans should try the rock climbing, zip lining, ping pong, basketball, mini golf and ice-skating.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas fun

 

The ship also had several interesting artistic pieces displayed in its public areas. One of these was a beautiful mirror head statue, called “Head” with interlocking pieces that continuously moved to change its face. Artist David Cerny designed this art piece for the Royal Promenade.
The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas view

Dining Options

When we ate at the Windjammer Buffet, we noted several significant changes. Appearance wise, The Windjammer now featured more modernized and upscale decor. The buffet is based around the concept of an open fresh market, displaying the food for patrons. They offer a wide variety of buffet items as well as freshly baked goods.We appreciated the fact that the staff required guests to wash their hands before entering thus helping minimize norovirus cases onboard.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas salt

The Boardwalk included some of our son’s favorite spots, such as Johnny Rockets with its burgers, Sabor which makes terrific fresh guacamole, and the not to be missed complimentary Boardwalk Doghouse with delicious hot dogs. 

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas food

 

Central Park featured plenty of high-end restaurants, such as 150 Central Park, Jamie’s Italian, Chops Grill, and Izumi. The area encompassed Park Cafe where guests can have a fresh salad or sandwich made in front of them. 150 Central Park is a posh restaurant with a seasonal menu that is not conducive for little kids. We dined in the first one aboard Allure of the Seas back in 2011 for Thanksgiving and had a great time.Our kids still remember the different flavored salts, from simple to spicy to fragrant. 

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas chair

And speaking of an incredible experience, parents can take a night out and go to Wonderland on deck eleven. The entire restaurant emphasizes the concept of surprise. Guests enter through a tunnel and receive a piece of paper and a brush. The menu appears when patrons take the brush and wet the paper. The food is categorized based on themes, such as Sun, Ice, Fire, Sea, and Earth.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas wonderland

Finally, topping the cruise experience guests should check out the bionic bar where robots mix drinks. Alcohol bottles hang from the ceiling as the robot arms mix the drinks ordered by guests on an iPad.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas robot

Shows and Attractions

The Harmony showcased several parades with the Dreamworks characters. During our sailing, the Harmony had its Holiday Parade, an event where they celebrate every holiday at the same time.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas stage

Families can also enjoy Grease the Musical. This musical includes all songs from both the seventies hit Broadway show as well as the movie.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas ice

Studio B, the ice skating rink, hosted 1887 a Journey in Time. This story is set in Paris and follows Juliet and her time traveling companion Tempus discovering the wonders of the world.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas irish

The Aquatheater on the Boardwalk  showed the Fine Line Aquashow, which displays acrobatics and extreme sports athletes in immersive 360 degrees.As it was in the nighttime and the theater is open to the elements we left the show early when our son with autism said he was cold.

Escape the Rubicon, an escape room for which guests need to pay in advance was a great hit with our son. Groups of up to twelve get transported to “another time” and need to solve the puzzle to break out in sixty minutes.
Originally we booked it for 5 PM, but our son forgot all about it and showed up an hour late. He almost didnt get in but a sweet young gal galantly offered him her spot and averted what could have potentially been a meltdown.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas night

Kids Clubs

The Harmony of the Seas offers several clubs for children and teens of various ages. The cruise line divides children into Aquanauts (3-5 years), Explorers (6-8 years) and Voyagers (9-11 years). Each group partakes in different age appropriate activities, and all kids can visit the Adventure Science area and Imagination Studio. Teens get divided into age 12-14 and age 15-17, and most of these spaces revolve around video games and socializing.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas club

We checked out the teen club, shown around by Victoria, an enthusiastic staff member.
The ‘Living Room’ is comprised of a large room divided into smaller spaces with various seating arrangements.There are plenty of gaming options such as PS4, XBOX 360, XBOX One, WII, and other video games. There’s also board games, card games, and arts and crafts.

Furthermore we spoted a a place to dance and even a mini buffet with sandwiches and a beverage station that makes virgin drinks.

 

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas chair
It is important for parents to know that this is not a place where kids sign in and out.

Teens can move independently through the club from ten in the morning to two in the morning. Also, no parents are allowed to be in this room unless they have special needs.Although the staff is eager to help those with special needs, this is not a one on one program.

 

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas stairs

A point to note is that the ship’s WIFI is fantastic, so relatives can call or message kids at any point if they need to stay in contact.

The Autism Friendly Harmony of the Seas pose

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Parents should book any activities online to avoid disappointment or lines.
  • At shows, parents should request seating close to the exit in case kids get restless.
  • Parents should introduce their children to Grease songs ahead of time so they can enjoy themselves at the show.
  • Families should try to book activities like the Abyss either when they first open or late in the afternoon or evening. Also, they should try to schedule these on days in port when there are fewer people if these activities are open.
  • Those who want to try specialty dining should go on the day of embarkation when it is less crowded, and the dress code is flexible.
  • The Boardwalk is always lively, and families can always leave if they feel overwhelmed. However, they should not book a room facing this area as it is busy and noisy.
  • Each neighborhood features several Purell stations for keeping hands clean.
  • The ship does have a mandatory muster drill with some physical exertion, which includes walking up stairs, in Studio B. Those who can’t participate in some parts of the muster drill need to contact the special needs department ahead of time. Parents of kids with noise sensitivities should bring ear plug as the muster drill includes seven horn blows.

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort pin

The Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in Nassau, Bahamas is a giant, resort complex comprising of several hotel towers on 141 acres of land. It offers a unique opportunity for guests of all ages with its magnificent lagoons, water slides, water sports, animal encounters, shopping, multiple restaurants and more. Also, the seascape island retreat is part of the Marriott chain of residences which ensures quality service and luxurious accommodation. We had meant to go there for many years, so we were excited to at least get a sampler for the day during a Royal Caribbean shore excursion while we were cruising last month aboard Oasis of the Seas.

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort blue

What You Will See

There is something here for everyone. There are several areas where one can walk around,  engage in water sports,  do some shopping and have a quick bite to eat.

Complimentary Attractions

Upon first visiting Atlantis, travelers might decide just to walk around the big resort to get an idea of what it looks like. They can also check out its sheer magnitude, free exhibits, and shopping options. There is plenty to keep one occupied, and one can walk around the grounds and enjoy the lovely scenery, well-manicured gardens, and the beautiful lagoons. There is a shopping mall across the mini bay called the Marina Village with over thirty stores!

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort building

Guests should visit the Dig Deck, an Aquarium like structure, and experience the lost world of Atlantis. This visit is a self-guided tour in which one walks through tunnels and sees large water tanks and different artifacts. The floor is paved and easy to navigate. It isn’t too hot or stuffy, and it is all shaded.

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort swim

The first stop is an ‘archaeological base camp’  followed by a lobster exhibit that is captivating to watch. The little reef-dwelling crustaceans go up and down small bars and ladders which are very entertaining. There’s a wishing well overlooking the lagoon that is teeming with different marine life, including friendly stingrays.

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort arch

Visitors can admire the murals and check out the lab and Fountain of Youth along with the Treasury room. The aquariums are filled with groves of coral reef with eels, seahorses, and jellyfish. Of course, the aquarium has everybody’s favorite – clown fish. The kids will love all the little “Nemo” fish.

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort art

Anyone can also enjoy the Predator Tunnel. This attraction is a giant aquarium with sharks and other marine life, and it feels like they are watching every move from every angle. Not to be missed is the tunnel where guests can sit cozily on the inflated tubes and float in a clear plastic tunnel while sharks swim all around the tunnel in plain view gawking at the visitors.

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort horse

The Aquaventure park (requires a ticket)

Stretching across the vast waterscape and well-kept beachfront is the Aquaventure Waterpark. It is perfect for thrill-seeking guests as well as family members of all ages. The park is free for guests staying on the property, but visitors can purchase a day pass.There are animal encounters with dolphins, stingrays, and sea lions. There are also two slide sections each offering their unique features and a Lazy River. The first slide is a replica of the Mayan Temple that encompasses the 60-foot Leap of Faith, Five-Story Serpent slide, Challenger slide and Jungle slide.

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort slide

For those wishing the push the envelope further, they can take the 200-foot long Abyss plunge at the Power Tower along with several other shorter slides. Even the resort’s Lazy River here is upgraded with wind-wave panels and bridges and water cannons. For an additional charge, visitors can interact with dolphins or stingrays. Those who book in advance can enjoy the “join a marine trainer for a day” program.

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort shark

Location, Hours, and Admission

Travelers can fly into Nassau Bahamas or takes a ferry from Miami. Another way to visit is of course as we did while on a  cruise ship shore excursion which includes a water taxi or bus shuttle from the port.

A day pass to the resort will be around $150 per person. The property does limit the amount of visitors per day so booking ahead of time is essential.Parents should check how long their cruise ship is in port for to get the most out of the day. The Aquaventure park opens at 10 AM.

Family Fun at the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort underwater

 

 

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Parents need to prepare their children for a lot of walking around in wet areas around pools and slides. Kids can’t run around and need to be aware of other guests.
  • During high traffic days, there are often lines by the slides with no real way to get in front.
  • While there are accessible ramps throughout the resort, most of the slides are not equipped for special needs.
  • The best time visit is during the non-Hurricane season between November and April when it is not too hot outdoors.
  • The resort sells sunscreen and insect repellent. We discovered on our visit that mosquitoes were less of a problem than bees.
  • .There is no need for parents to bring life vests or inflatable tubes; the resort has these on hand.Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando:Tmom Travel Disclosure
  • We were impressed to see that the staff is well-rehearsed and trained as well as helpful with autism. All pools have lifeguards, and the slides have staff who explain the slide procedures correctly.
  • There is Wi-Fi available  for purchase for all guests there for the day.
  • The resort offers chairs, towels, umbrellas and of course showers but for an extra fee, visitors can rent a cabana for the day by one of the lagoons.
  • There are multiple food venues dotted throughout the resort that offers snacks and drinks as well as places to sit down and enjoy a quick meal.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite

 

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite pin
The Norwegian Breakaway operated by the Norwegian Cruise Lines has a total of 1,024 staterooms and 238 suites.With the Rockettes as its godmothers and New York City as its base, it is one of the most glamorous cruise ships navigating the high seas.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite ice

Having never cruised with Norwegian cruise lines before we decided to book a two-night cruise to nowhere solely for the purpose of enjoying the ship. Although ,we usually book inside cabins this time so I splurged on a mini-suite with a balcony.
Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite maxx

Decor

The ship is decorated in a sleek modern style with vibrant colors and heavy use of metallics. Unlike other vessels we’ve cruised on, this one has a hip almost avantgarde vibe to it starting with the Peter Maxx painted the hull.Bright murals splashed across the front of the ship, the gym, and the pool areas complemented the look.

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Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite stairs

 

We stayed in suite 10834, which was cozy though it was oddly shaped and relatively narrow. Our contemporary decorated suite featured tan wave patterned carpeting in the bedroom and light tan tile flooring in the bathroom.

 

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite corridor

Our mini suite

As we entered, we noticed the emergency procedures prominently displayed on the back of the door. Another feature that caught our eye was the thermostat, allowing travelers to adjust the suite’s temperature to suit their preferences.
Underneath the temperature control device were buttons that could be pushed to indicate whether guests wanted their rooms freshened up or they did not wish to be disturbed by housekeeping.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite bell

The two double beds (that could be put together to form a queen ) were comfortable as were the crisp linens and fluffy hypoallergenic pillows supplied. There were two small nightstands beside the beds that could house books, electronics, or other items that needed to be readily accessed.

The cabin closet featured wooden shelving as well as the mini in-room safe. It was a bit of a stretch to reach from the beds to turn the lights on and off, but that was only a minor issue.
The suite’s large couch in the sitting area next to the beds could double as an extra bed for a teen that traveled with parents.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite beds

 

Across from the beds, there was a large television with a cabinet beneath it. The cabinet held a cooler that served as the suite’s mini-bar stocked with snacks and cold beverages for purchase. The suite also had a small work /vanity area with a phone and two outlets to charge our devices along with a small stool to sit on. The Coffee and tea making section took up the rest of the counter space.

 

The balcony

Originally I was reluctant to book a cabin with a balcony. However, I felt reassured when I saw the double locks on the sliding door. The two locks were tricky to open for most kids and provided that extra layer of peace of mind for parents to kids with autism.
The suite’s  balcony was surprisingly clean and overlooked the lifeboats offering a partial ocean view. But all in all,i t was large enough to sit in and enjoy the ocean breeze

 

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite sofa

The suite’s bathroom

We loved the bathroom facilities.
There was a sufficiently large counter that could hold some towels along with two sinks. For additional storage, the bathroom had a wooden cabinet underneath the sinks.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite phone

The shower was large with a top-of- the -line handheld device that featured water jets.There were soap and shampoo dispensers provided by the cruise line.
The enclosure made of plain glass with no frosting provided no real privacy. We did appreciate the fact that the area had a grab bar for passengers who needed it. Furthermore, the raised section at the bottom of the shower helped prevent flooding which was a bonus.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite sink

Autism Travel Tips 

  • The suite boasted two safety bars in the bathroom, one near the toilet and another in the shower. The bars allowed those with mobility issues to use these facilities.
  • Anti slip mats for the shower were not provided, so those that need this item will need to bring it along.
  • Parents might want to pack night lights to help family members navigate their way in the dark.

Review of our NCL Breakaway Balcony Mini Suite jeff

 

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