So...this was our second cruise over Spring Break on Allure. I feel confident in writing a comprehensive review.
Embarkation: we arrived at the pier @ 10:30am. My husband dropped the kids & i off at the curb while he parked the car. The lot was seriously 100 feet away. Embarkation (even with 3 young sons) was expedious...10mins total. There were no lines and we processed efficiently. The downside...the ship was not ready for us so we had to wait in an upstairs lobby for 30-45mins, but it was air-conditioned, orderly and there was a small play area for kids.
Once onboard I proceeded immediately to the guest services area to retreive my iphones (that i had heard about on CC)...I was told to proceed to the card room. Once there, I was only the 3rd person in line but it was a long process and wait (the gentleman in front of me was renting 12 iphones!!). I was able to secure the phones ($30p/phone/week)...they allow you to gps track the other iphones on your acct and text between eachother. This was great b/c i was able to track my 10yr old when i gave him sign-out priveledges in Adventure Ocean. I would highly recommend proceeding immediately to the location of the phones once onboard to acquire as there is no pre-reserving and the rent out almost immediately.
I met up with my family for a lovely, low-key lunch at the Central Park Cafe which serves make your own salads, paninis, light snacks, sandwiches and drinks for lunch. We ended up eating breakfast here every day.
Afterwards we proceeded to the pool. We had packed pool attire in a small bag for everyone but our room was ready by 1pm (better than the 4pm the year before). We had 2 connecting Central Park balconies for the 6 of us. A 2pp connected to a 4pp. I will say it was much quieter than the Boardwalk balconies we had the year before. Downside, the rooms are king beds and pull-out queen as opposed to bunks inside. This tends to be a pain and there is absolutely no walking room if the sofa is out. Made getting ready in the am difficult whereas with bunks u can just fold up for the space.
Pros: lots of activities (rock-climbing, surfing, multiple pools)
Cons: Bahamas not a good port (will discuss further), housekeeping could've been much better, Adventure Ocean was over-filled most evenings
Pools: Having just sailed on Liberty in Feb, I can now compare the 2 classes of ships. I prefer the larger pools in the Freedom and other classes to the many smaller pools on Allure. They were all very busy and cold, even though the weather was sunny and 80'sF everyday. Best day for the pool is port days when everyone is off the ship. You need to reserve a seat by 9-10am or you will not get one.
Ports: Bahamas was smelly, run-down and dirty. We had booked a tour to Blackbeard's Cay only to be emailed a few days before telling us that the tour was cancelled due to renovations on the island. My eldest and youngest sons opted to go to AO (Adventure Ocean) while the rest of us went ashore. That lasted 1 hour. It was not exciting. Only craftsmen selling there shells and such and a few stores that I would not classify as worth it!
St. Thomas: booked the Pirate Ship & Turtle Cove snorkel trip...WONDERFUL!!! Highlight of our cruise. Very well-organized. Jason & Rikki Dee do a wonderful job entertaining passengers with pirate antics on the 1 hour sail to the cove. While at the cove, they are very helpful with all persons regarding snorkeling, putting on gear and helping take pictures of the turtles. The turtles were everywhere and very easy to see. Highly recommend!!
St. Maarten: DH and eldest went on the Loterie Tree Farm Zip line and said it was wonderful. I took taxi (very easy, just walk out of terminal and get in appropriate cue) with sons to Orient Beach. Once there, easy to rent chairs/umbrella (2 loungers/1 umbrella/2 drink tokens for $15). We only occasionally viewed a topless person...nothing that my kids even noticed. Beach was exquisite, with only a few hagglers selling things.
DINING: this was our first time trying MY Time Dining. I was very impressed. I had tried to make nightly reservs for 6pm but did it too late and only could get 5:45pm. It worked out fine....if we were late (or early), it was no big deal. We were seated with a wonderful waitstaff the first night and requested his table every night. My sons did the FAmily Time dining each night and went off with the AO counselors at 6:45pm each night. This worked out well and the waitstaff was very accomodating. The food was ok...I've had better. I think with the larger ship and so many upcharge restaurants the MDR food has really gone down hill.
Lunch @ Izumi: very disappointing this year. Very small menu--think 5 different rolls and a few types of sashimi.
Dinner @ Rita's Cantina Fiesta Party: average...the entertainment was great and the inclusion of guests and children was wonderful...kids loved it. Set menu was average, at best. A lot of fried foods as appetizers and fajitas were just ok.
Chef's Table: ok, but not what I expected. The food was good, but not spectacular like i had been led to believe. For $95pp I thought it was going to be phenomenal. MY DH is a wine snob and very knowledgeable about wine and thought the pairings were good but the selections average. The food portions were large but it was a bit exotic for the average eater....I've been to much better restaurants in NYC and Vegas that were less expensive and better. There was little to no interaction from sommelier and chef with guests. Chef seemed impatient when guests were speaking and sommelier seemed bored and irritated with my DH's extensive wine knowledge.
I had signed us up for this after many in our CC roll call were going. It was fun to get dressed up, but the drinks were average (albeit all you can drink) and the entertainment was just ok. I was under the impression it was going to be more like a murder mystery dinner which i quite enjoy.
Vintages Wine Bar:
My DH spent every evening here. The selections were top-notch as were the bartenders/sommeliers. Daniel was well-versed in all wines and remembered my DH from the year before...I think they are BFF's now!! Tapas was great there, too.
Wonderfully-run, organized and my children LOVED...except...overcrowded. There were several nights when there were 75 kids in the 9-11 yr old group after dinner. My son checked himself out because he felt clausterphobic with all those kids in one room! He was then going in during the day and just meeting up with friends later. My other 2 sons loved the 3-5yr and 6-8yr rooms.
I can't really comment on the nightlife as I was usually in bed by 9pm after a long day swimming!!!
Very disappointed in the Madagascar Aqua Show...it was just a meet and greet b/c the crew was changing and they didn't know the routine. I totally understand this.,.but seeing as this is SPRING BREAK and we paid basically rack rates (only Christmas/NY's is higher, I think)...RC would have picked a different time (like January??? or even a few weeks later in April or May??) to change performers!!
The regular Aqua Show was great as was the Fountain Show...my boys sat in front row center and loved getting sprayed!!
Overall it was a wonderful cruise, my boys had fun and we will sail RC again...in fact we are sailing on Independence (yes, going down to the smaller ship!) Christmas Break!!