Category Archives: Wine & Food

Harmony of the Seas Review — From Play to Dining


Harmony of the Seas Perfect Storm water slides start on Deck 18 and empty onto Deck 15

Make no mistake about it: While every cruise ship is billed as an ocean-going resort, Harmony of the Seas is truly a floating resort. There is just too much to see and do, with fun distractions for almost all age groups. Indeed, I’m going to go so far as to say that I would not sail the Harmony for anything less than 10 days, and even then only if the itinerary were port intensive. Doing so will leave one far too little time to take advantage of even a fraction of what this Oasis Class resort has to offer. Fortunately, Ursula and I were on a 13-day (shortened from the original 14 days) from Barcelona to Port Canaveral, with only two stops along the way. So we got to pick and choose among the full measure of Harmony‘s offerings.

Zip lining on Deck 16 — nine stories above the Boardwalk

Yes, there is even a venue for zip-lining while suspended nine stories above the Boardwalk on Deck 6. But if miniature golf is more attune with your level of adventurism, then Harmony has you covered there as well with the Harmony Dunes Mini Golf course:

Harmony Dunes Mini Golf course

Between those levels of adrenalin, you have choices ranging from Surfing on one of two FlowRiders

Surfing one of the two FlowRiders on Deck 16

… to the Ultimate Abyss, a pair of dry slides that take you all the way from Deck 16 and dump you nine stories below onto the Boardwalk on Deck 6:

Entrance to the Ultimate Abyss dry slides on Deck 16 for a seven-story descent

Now let’s head on down to Deck 15 for a closer look at Harmony Dunes:

The nautically themed Harmony Dunes Mini Golf course

So, the Boardwalk neighborhood is located on Deck 6 aft. Meanwhile Central Park meanders through the central portion of Harmony on Deck 8. Below is a view from above of both Central Park and the balcony suites that overlook this neighborhood:

Central Park neighborhood on Harmony of the Seas

The Boardwalk resides to the rear on Deck 6, which also hosts a Johnny Rockets; antique carousel; Starbucks; Sabor for Mexican fare and tequilas; the Dog House for hotdogs, bratwursts, and fries; the Luckey Climber play area for adventurous children (with lots of safety nets); an arcade, and a couple of retail stores. Step inside from the Boardwalk and you’ll find one of our favorite watering holes on any Royal Caribbean ship, Schooner Bar, which overlooks the Royal Promenade on Deck 5.

On most Royal Caribbeans ships the Royal Promenade is the heart of social gathering and places to hang out. And while Central Park gives the promenade on Oasis Class ships a run for this title, the Royal Promenade on the Harmony still comes out on top. Here, from the bow, you can see Boleros Latin Club and the shore excursions desks:

Royal Promenade

Here you can get pizza by the slice or order a whole pizza to share at Sorrento’s:

Sorrento’s for pizza

And then there’s the sportscar/racing themed Boot & Bonnet Pub with both “indoor” and “outdoor” seating for some liquid refreshments:

Boot & Bonnet Pub

Speaking of sportscars, all Royal Caribbean ships have in their respective Royal Promenades a classic automobile over which you may drool. Harmony has one of my all-time favorites, a Jaguar XK120, and it appears to me that it’s an early production example — probably from around 1949-1950:

Early Jaguar XK120 — the forerunner of the XK series culminating in the E-Type of 1961

Well, time for dinner. And upscale dining on Harmony of the Seas means going up to Central Park. Here you’ll find Vintages wine bar, Jamie’s (as in Jamie Oliver) Italian, Chops Grille steakhouse (a staple of all Royal Caribbean ships), and 150 Central Park. I’m going to apologize right now, because I neglected to take my camera for by far the best meal we had, which was at 150 Central Park. So, instead, I’m going to review the second best meal of the voyage — Jamie’s Italian. After that I’ll give you a brief description of our meal at 150 Central Park, and what made that dining venue so fantastic.

Jamie’s Italian on Central Park, Harmony of the Seas

Now for restaurant reviews: Ursula and I were first introduced to a Jamie’s Italian during our back-to-back Alaska cruises beginning in late November (first of that series at: Cruising in the Age of Covid-19 — Part 1). We had no real interest in going to Jamie’s, but we ran into an old friend working aboard Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas. That person is Slavio Correia, who handles Park West Gallery auction events on various cruises. We’ve knows Slavio for many years, and it was wonderful running into him again. At any rate, Slavio insisted upon taking us to dinner at the Jamie’s Italian on Ovation, which is his favorite dining venue, so we were ready to try it again on Harmony.

Jamie’s Italian in Central Park aboard Harmony of the Seas

We were familiar with the menu by now, buy you probably are not. So here it is:

Jamie’s Italian menu

One last look around the Harmony version of Jamie’s before we get to the food. Here you’ll find nice, homey touches, such as:

Jamie’s Italian decorative accessories

Ursula was eager for us to dive into the Our Famous Meat Plank, which she adorned from our previous experience aboard Ovation. This appetizer includes prosciutto, Tuscan fennel salad, various olives, focaccia, pecorino sardo topped with a chili jam, bocconcini mozzerella, coppa picante, a pistachio mortadella, and a tomato-topped crostini.

Our Famous Meat Plank appetizer

Appetizer Number Two was a favorite from our last Jamie’s encounter, the Crispy Squid served with a lemon-garlic mayonnaise. And while it was delicious, this example was a bit on the rubbery side and not quite as crisp as in the establishment aboard Ovation.

Crispy Squid — a bit of a disappoint this time ’round, but still delicious

For a change I decided upon trying Our Famous Prawn Linguine. Here the prawns nicely prepared, the pasta perfectly al dente, and the saffron-and-fennel infused tomatoes a nice, tasty touch.

Our Famous Prawn Linguine pasta dish

Ursula went with the Chianti-Braised Short Rib, which came with a Parmesan mash potato. This dish was a real winner, with the rib meat fork-tender and hearty.

Chianti-Braised Short Rib

We kept the sides simple and tasty. Ursula opted for truffle and Parmesan Posh Fries, while I got the more mundane parsley and garlic Funky Fries. The flavors were definitely up to snuff, but the fries themselves could have used more time in the frier. Or, better yet, a traditional European second trip to the frier to crisp up a bit more.

Funky Fries (left) and Posh Fries

And, for the pièce de résistance we finished up this meal with an incredible Amalfi Lemon Meringue Cheesecake. This is described in the dessert menu as, “Velvety mascarpone & lemon cheesecake topped with Italian meringue, served with lemon curd & blackcurrants.” And, yes, it was even better than it sounds or looks. It was stupendous.

Amalfi Lemon Meringue Cheesecake

Now for the dining highlight of our cruise (and, once again, my apologies for neglecting to bring my camera for this one): 150 Central Park. We opted for two entrées, a half portion of the Roasted Tenderloin Beef for Two (150’s version of Chateaubriand) and Lobster Thermidor. The appetizer was a delightfully prepared Crispy Berkshire Pork Belly with parsnip purée, apple and watermelon radish slaw, and a port wine reduction.

The staff at 150 were kind enough to halve the already half portion of tenderloin so that Ursula’s portion would come out bleu (raw in the middle) and mine made medium rare (warm pink center). This steak was, quite possibly, the single best piece of beef either of us has ever tasted. It met the clichéd cut-it-with-a-fork tender, and the flavor was absolutely divine.

Not to be outdone, the Lobster Thermidor presented us with tender chunks of cold-water lobster islands floating amidst a delectable cognac cream bearing just the right balance of tarragon and Parmesan. Neither flavor trumped the other, and the generous chunks of lobster shone through. Just as they should.

If you’re going to spring for only one additional-cost meal aboard an Oasis Class ship, 150 Central Park is it. Trust me on this. The fare is absolutely stunning.

Fun Photo Friday I’ll present my favorite shots of the magnificent Harmony of the Seas, and next week well see the start of another travel series.

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Saying ‘Goodbye’ to Belfast; Returning to Dublin for dinner


Belfast Psychedelic Taxi

Another tour destination on our Hop-on/Hop-off tour of Belfast was the Titanic Museum:

Titanic Museum

Time was running low however, so we did not disembark for entrance into the museum. I did manage to snag a shot of one of a nearby display, HMS Caroline (1914):

Museum ship HMS Caroline

Of course, no visit to Belfast is quite complete without a journey to the historic Belfast Harland and Wolff Shipyard. Harland and Wolff began building ships in 1861, and is most famous for constructing ships for the White Star Line, including RMS Titanic, Olympic, and Britannic.

Harland and Wolff Shipyard
Harland and Wolff Shipyard

The hour grew late, and we had to catch a bus back to Dublin before we got stranded. So, back to Dublin it was for Ursula and me. Here we have the Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin:

Samuel Beckett Bridge

This bridge is noted for an appearance reminiscent of a harp lying on its side; the harp being a national symbol of Ireland.

The Samuel Beckett “Harp”

The sun was setting, giving Dublin a nice, warm glow that I took advantage of:

Golden Hues of Sunset in Dublin
Golden Hues of Sunset in Dublin

Finally, after a long day, it was time for dinner at a place we went back repeatedly during our stay in Dublin. That would be Quays Irish Restaurant. But today I was feeling more inclined toward some American fare, so I went with the chicken wings and a Smithwick’s Red Irish Ale:

Smithwick’s Red Irish Ale

Ursula opted to stay local with steamed mussels and a bowl of chowder:

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Bonus Blog, Recipes — Super Dips for the Super Bowl


Here’s my annual Super Bowl Super Dip Recipes (Jalapeño Pesto and Lipton’s® California Onion dips):

First up: Jalapeño Pesto Dip:

The great things about this recipe are:

  • It’s healthy as all get out.
  • It’s so tasty you’ll completely forget how healthy it is.
  • It’s not as spicy hot as it sounds (although it’s definitely not for the timid of tongue, either).
  • It goes great with anything from tortilla chips to corn chips to potato chips to even pretzels.
  • It’s so simple to make even a husband can do it.
  • The leftover jalapeño pesto is great on a whole variety of dishes ranging from omelets to burgers (use as a topping)  and even mixed with ground beef for tacos or chili.  By all means use your imagination with the leftover pesto, because you’ll probably think up dozens of uses for it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds fresh whole  jalapeño peppers
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. granulated or fresh crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • ⅓ cup good extra virgin olive oil or other healthy monounsaturated oil

Step 1. Bring to boil just enough water to immerse the jalapeños.  Once the water is boiling, add the jalapeños and bring the water back to boiling.  Gently boil the jalapeños, stirring occasionally, for fifteen minutes.  Drain the jalapeños and set aside until they are cool enough to handle.

Step 2. Slice the jalapeños in half lengthwise and remove the stems.  Now, this next procedure is where you control the heat to some extent.  On most of the jalapeños, remove the seeds and the ribs to which those seeds are attached.  Keep the seeds and ribs on approximately one-third of the jalapeños, choosing in particular those jalapeños with very white, healthy-looking seeds and discarding those seeds that are dingy or brown in color.  Increasing the number of seeds and ribs retained will increase the heat; decreasing that number will help to tame it.

Step 3. Place the jalapeños, cumin, garlic, and salt into a food processor.  While pulsing, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.  Do no overdo the processing or you’ll destroy those beautiful white seeds and lose texture, but you do want a fairly smooth consistency.

Other uses: In addition to the suggested uses below (besides as a chip dip), I’ve since taken to using this Jalapeño Pesto recipe also as a pizza sauce and in macaroni and cheese.

Serve either warm or cold with your favorite chips (my choice is good quality tortilla chips). Warm is particularly interesting, especially if you contrast that with a well-refrigerated . . .

Lipton’s® California onion dip:

Ingredients:

  • 1 envelope of Lipton’s® Onion Soup Mix
  • 1 pint reduced-fat sour cream

Step 1. Mix together thoroughly in a bowl, preferably the day before the Super Bowl; wrap tightly or put back into the sour cream container and chill

Step 2. Serve with the chip of your choice; my favorite for this is Fritos® Scoops!®

Variation: Try mixing together some of the California Onion Dip with my Jalapeño Pesto dip, but go easy and taste frequently until you arrive at just the right kick to suit your tastes.

And since this is listed under Wine & Food the next question would have to be, what kind of wine would you serve with this?  Well, first of all, this is definitely an accompaniment to beer, especially a good, fairly strong ale. Or, one of my favorite Mexican beers, Modelo Negra™.  But if you would like wine with this, it’ll have to be one that helps tame the fire.  That suggests a semisweet white.  Think:  Johannisberg or German Rieslings, Chenin Blanc, or Gewürztraminer.  The cooler white wine serving temperatures supply immediate relief and the sweetness helps neutralize the capsaicin (the compound that gives peppers their “heat”) in the long term.

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