My girlfriend and I cruised on the Allure in March. We are in our late 30's and mid 40's respectively. We enjoy cruising for being pampered, and basking in the aquamarine waters of the Caribbean.
Part one: yes cruise
While sailing on Serenade of the Seas in 2011, we booked our next cruise, for March 18 2012 on ADVENTURE of the Seas. We chose this sailing because I wanted Melissa to see a large ship, and also due to the long stay in Aruba. However, afterward through research I learned that St. Kitts and Curacao might not suit our tastes, so I started looking at other options.
Part two: YES cruise
After a certain amount of time, prices dropped for the nicer balcony staterooms on another ship sailing from San Juan that day, Caribbean Princess. I liked the itinerary on this sailing, so we cancelled our reservation on Adventure and booked CB. In the months that followed, there was a price drop that we took advantage of, and also I learned of a military benefit I was entitled to. In the end, we were extremely excited about our upcoming cruise.
Part three: NO CRUISE
Thanks to being active on Cruise Critic, I noticed in the weeks in advance of our sailing that Caribbean Princess was having some propulsion problems. It was late getting into port a time or two. Well, during the sailing immediately before ours, the problem must have gotten worse, because the ship 'limped' back in to San Juan after stopping at only one port of its 5 scheduled stops.
Again, thanks to Cruise Critic (sans any progress reports from Princess)we learned of the progress of the repairs. We and the other cruisers on our roll call worried as the week dragged on that our sailing might be scrapped. Finally, Thursday around noon (3 days prior to our sailing)a passenger on board posted on Cruise Critic that the captain announced the March 18th sailing was indeed cancelled. Melissa called Princess to confirm, and shortly thereafter we got an email from Princess cancelling our reservation. We were refunded our cruise fare and given 25% extra to apply to a future cruise. If you knew Melissa and I, you'd know that we weren't going to skip our vacation, even with only 3 days to find an alternate plan.
Part four: yes cruise
So, we desperately began our quest for an alternate vacation. Through a travel website, Melissa learned on Friday morning that there were two staterooms available on the Allure of the Seas sailing, two days later. Now, I'd always been staunchly against sailing on Allure or Oasis, due to the sea day heavy itineraries and frankly, the price to cruise on either of these ships. It doesn't seem like a person should have to pay so much to cruise to three islands, and one of those for a very short stay. Because we wanted a vacation so badly by this time, we opened our wallets once again and paid the extra fare. I thought to myself, "I hope we're not throwing a bunch of money away". However......
Part five: YES CRUISE!!!
Very quickly we began to realize that the money was well spent. The ship is so well laid out, that even though it's HUGE, there's never an outrageously long walk to any venue. And because it is so well appointed, there is plenty to do, even for 6000 passengers. It hit me on day 4 that on a 7 night cruise, we were going to 6 very diverse shows, which went a long way to make up for stopping at only 3 islands. The shows were very entertaining. The comedians in the small and intimate comedy club were hysterical. Melissa's cheeks were hurting from laughing so hard. The diving show and ice skating show blew us away. We enjoyed Blue Planet. We missed Chicago entirely, because we were too tired from traveling to Ft. Lauderdale. A similar thing happened for the showcase entertainer. His show seemed okay, but I was nodding off from a day in the sun.
On day 3, which was a sea day, the weather was partially inclement. By getting up somewhat early though, I was able to obtain two deck chairs in the Solarium, right at the front of the ship and totally protected from the weather. Despite the occasional rain that day, we were able to sunbathe and enjoy this beautiful pool area, unaffected. It was the most enjoyable rainy day, ever. It was another reminder how special this ship is.
On the other two sea days, again, by getting out of bed early, I was able to snag two deck chairs in a primo spot by the beach pool. As the morning wore on and people began coming outside, I expected to see some conflict over chair saving. However, there was a terrific deck attendant who notified people who dropped towels off only to walk away that they had ½ hour to return. Between this and how there was just plenty of room and chairs around the ship, I didn't see any conflict whatever. Only occasionally would we realize how far away we were from the people on the other side of the pool deck, or the band playing on the bandstand.
So, we would snooze under our umbrellas, waking up occasionally to walk to the frozen yogurt dispenser to have a tasty treat. We would also snack between meals, or before shows; sometimes cookies from Cafe Promenade, sometimes Pizza from Sorrento's. I gained 6 pounds, and somehow Melissa lost 5 pounds. We loved the Wipe Out Cafe, which a person could patronize without feeling the need to get dressed. Lots of passengers walked in and grabbed lunch in their bathing suit and flip flops. No problem. We also enjoyed lunch from the Park Cafe in Central Park. When we came back onboard from St. Maartin, we lunched there and I enjoyed the much lauded Roast Beef sandwich. Delicous. My point is that there is a tremendous amount of variety for dining, both free and at a premium.
We purchased a dine at three package. We ended up dining at Giovanni's Table (loved loved LOVED it), Chops Grille (LOVED IT) and Samba Grille (Not so much). The service at all three was excellent. On the nights we dined at Giovanni's and Chops, it was too windy to eat out in the park. That's too bad, because the interiors of these restaurants, without the sea views, lose something compared to Chops and say, Portofino, on the smaller ships. Still, the food was to die for at Giovanni's and Chops.
As for main dining, it was terrific as well. We had two great servers, Norman and Lincoln. They kept our drink glasses full, even though we drank only complimentary beverages. The menu choices were similar to what we've had on other RCCL cruises, but that's good, because we like the choices. We were on deck 3 in the Adagio, right next to the entrance. Our two dining mates were two men from Russia. The language barrier was frustrating, but we did enjoy some conversation with their limited English. A number of people didn't dress properly on formal nights.
The Boardwalk during the day seemed but a novelty...but at night, it had the feel of a genuine boardwalk. Melissa loved the Carousel, and the 3 stages of a chiseled wooden horse. It was neat walking along and looking at yourself in the funhouse mirrors. Unfortunately, our night time diving performance was cancelled due to rough seas. I think we would have enjoyed this at night. It was rescheduled the next afternoon. I also would have enjoyed something at no charge to eat or drink on the boardwalk. I think if all the venues there weren't for a fee, we would have spent some time there.
The Royal Promenade was something we enjoyed, albeit briefly. We stopped there a few times for afternoon or early evening coffee and snacks. Sorrento's was a nice pizza stop, and the entertainment on the final evening was quite enjoyable.
Our stateroom attendant did a very nice job, and was very friendly. His name is Shaun, and his nickname is "007". A cool guy. He somehow always knew when we exited our stateroom into the hallway...as if he wore a little sound amplifier in his ear, or perhaps there were cameras installed in the hallways and he always had a monitor in front of him. He would greet us with song, and a hello from whichever stateroom he was working on.
We were amazed at how easily we got from deck to deck on the elevators (with little waiting), and especially on and off the ship at ports. With all the cruisers, and all the security, we were allowed back on the ship very quickly.
Embarkation and Disembarking were also extremely fast.
To make a long story no longer, we salvaged a great vacation out of a cancelled cruise. We enjoyed ourselves very much on the lovely and incredible Allure of the Seas.
For enjoyability we would have rated this a 5 or 5 plus. Unfortunately, we had to leave quite early to set sail to St. Thomas. We took an inexpensive taxi to Cabbage Beach. I simple, clean beach close to some hotel resorts. Some of the clearest water we ever saw. It took some walking to find a good spot to enter the water where it wasn't rough surf. We had an awesome time in the sun. Thanks to the excursion reps on board for suggesting this beach.
We always love this port, and we don't do anything all that exciting. We take the water taxi to 'the boardwalk' across from the ship. Then, we walk down as far as we can stand in the heat, rent some cheap beach chairs under an umbrella, and enjoy the aquamarine water. A totally relaxing day, and my girlfriend purchased some inexpensive jewelry and a pretty cover up from a merchant on the beach.
We made the trek to Trunk Bay on St. John. Because we were docked at Crown Bay and not Havensight in St. Thomas, it took considerably longer to get to Red Hook to catch the ferry. Other than that, it takes around an hour for the cab to the ferry/ferry to St. John/cab to Trunk Bay all together. Maybe a little less than that. Round trip for two including two chairs and admission to Trunk Bay was $130 dollars. Unfortunately, the weather was only so so, maybe even a little less. I think next time we're at Crown Bay we'll try to go somewhere else.