With our oldest child graduating high-school this year, and our twins not far behind, we knew that this would probably be the last Spring Break that we could take all together for a long time. We wanted to celebrate many big events in our lives. 2011 was also the year of our 20th Wedding Anniversary and my husbands 50th birthday, both on the same day! Since we'll be paying for college for the next 6 years, we figured we'd better do this now :)
The Allure of the Seas was just as I'd hoped it would be. It was a beautiful ship. Very large with lots to do for all of us. We had an Owner's Suite on deck 11 which slept our family of 5 quite comfortably. Every morning when we left for breakfast, our wonderful Suite Attendant Emmanuel closed up the sofa bed and roll-away that our teen-aged children slept on each night. This left us with a large living/dining area through out the day. The deck was enormous! This is why we opted for this suite over the Crown Loft Suite which has about the same square footage but because the Loft is 2 stories, you have half the deck size. (The Owner's Suite was also more economical but I would choose it over the Loft even if they cost the same.) I'm not sure if the Crown Loft would fit the 5 of us anyway. The bathroom had two sinks and both a spa tub and stand-up shower. There was lots of storage for clothes and we 3 ladies packed a lot! About 3 outfits a day not including pj's and bathing suits.
We traveled during a Spring Break week so the ship sailed at full capacity. As suite guests, we had a different line for embarkation but it didn't save us any time as our friends who were not staying in a suite, were through and taking their first family picture before us. It only took about 15 minutes for all of us to get on the ship. We were on the same deck and our rooms were ready by 1:00. We did have lunch at the Park Cafe and my husband did enjoy the famous roast beef sandwich. I thought the made-to-order salads were perfect.
It may be hard to believe, but I never felt too crowded and I like my personal space! As many before have stated, it felt most crowded when shows let out. (Just relax in your seat a little longer and let the elevators clear out... or take the stairs and burn off some of that great food you'll be eating all week.) The pools and chairs near-by were always full but my kids always found chairs one deck up from the pool with not too far to walk. I do wish the pools were larger but I only went in to cool off anyway. There is a "Suites Only" sun deck that I did take advantage of because there were always empty chairs and it was very quiet. This is probably because it was two decks up from the pools, so if you want to hear the live caribbean music or jump in the pool a lot, you wouldn't be too comfortable being so far away from it all.
There were many choices other than the Windjammer for meals so don't fret if you don't enjoy rubbing elbows with the thousands of other people sharing the ship with you. We opted for the Concierge Lounge for breakfast out of convenience. There was always a continental offering laid out or you could order off the menu. My family really enjoyed the cappuccino machine which ground the coffee beans and steamed the milk for you at the touch of a button. There was only food available in the lounge for a few hours in the morning and a few hours before dinner at night along with complimentary cocktails. The coffee/cappuccino machine was available all day long.
We did not take advantage of the Concierge for restaurant or show reservations. I like to be organized and I figured why ask someone to do something for me at the last minute when I could take care of it months in advance. I had my pick of show times as I did it early on. I made reservations at 150 Central Park for Day 5, following a day at St. Thomas. We had late seating in the MDR for the week so I chose 8:30 reservations to stay on schedule. The food was fantastic. It truly is a culinary experience. Our waiter explained every course to us and we couldn't believe the many different flavors tasted on each small plate. The portions look small, but I was full at the end and didn't have room for dessert. My DH was satisfied as well, but he did find room for Sorrento's Pizza at about 11:30! A word of warning though, you can spend a lot more than the $40 pp charge. We opted not to go with the wine pairings and ordered one bottle off the wine list. The wine pairings were $75 pp and we were more interested in the food that night. We did have their special martini and would love to remember everything that was in it. It had basil and cucumber which sounds strange but we both loved it. It was worth it as was the extra charge for the Pelligrino sparkling mineral water and cappuccino. Our waiter Simon from India was so informative and friendly that of course we added to the included gratuity. We never only leave 15% at home anyway and this meal was well worth a higher tip.
As I mentioned above, I did make my own reservations for the shows as well. We were able to sit in the special Suite Seats for OceanAria on the first night. The seats had a great view as they were center stage. We showed up 5 minutes before showtime and there were still seats reserved for us. I highly recommend this show for everyone. If we'd had time, we would have seen it a second time. The kids liked it as much as we "middle aged" parents! Luckily as Crown and Anchor members, we were invited to another shorter water show for return passengers and we enjoyed the divers again. This invitation was for all Crown and Anchor members regardless of cabin selection. They had complimentary morning cocktails which were a nice surprise. Captain Johnny and crew were there as well and it was a lot of fun.
We saw Chicago on day 2 but came at the starting time and forgot to ask for the suite seating and were only able to find seats on the far right and close to the stage which isn't the most optimum viewing area. It was a very professional show but because I have seen it twice on stage before, and our seats weren't great, we left after about 30 minutes. Our kids (15 and 17) said they would have stayed if we had better seats and we weren't all so tired. We did take advantage of the Suite Seats for Blue Planet on day 6 and had a much better view. These were balcony seats so you could see the whole stage. (Just don't sit in the very first row as there is a bar that will be in your view if you are under 6 feet tall.) This show was magical. The singing was fantastic and the dancers moved effortlessly across the stage and in the air. (Look closely at the tree when that scene begins. It is truly "lifelike".)
I wasn't sure what a headliner show was and had never heard of Earl Turner, but I will never forget him. This was his second show that night and he has more energy than anyone half his age! DH and I never dance in public. (DH compares me to "Elaine" on Seinfeld. If you were a fan of the show, than you know why I keep my dancing out of the public eye!) But somehow, Earl managed to get the entire audience out of their seats and moving. His music was geared towards people our age and older. (I am 43 and although I listen to alternative rock, I did enjoy singing along to songs from the 40's on up.) This was a good opportunity for Earl to recognize the passing of the late Dick Clarke that day and Don Corneilious earlier this year. I don't think our children would have enjoyed this show as much as we did. I'm not sure about people under 30 unless they have an appreciation for all music but no one can deny how inspiring he was. We didn't use the suite seating as it was't necessary. It was more fun being on the main floor and closer to the stage.
As I wanted this to be more of a review of staying in a suite on Allure, I won't go into much detail of the rest of the ship and the ports of call as there are many better reviews elsewhere on Cruise Critic than I could ever write. I think the best part of staying in a suite was that there was a place for our whole family to unwind at the same time together. Although the ship was tremendous, we didn't feel like we had to stay out of our cabin all day. We originally booked two ocean view balconies and although that would have given us 2 bathrooms, I was much happier with the living area that we shared. In addition to the table and four chairs on the deck, there were two chaise loungers for private afternoon naps. It made for a very relaxing vacation.
The last suite perk that we took advantage of was the luggage valet. You have to make sure that your airline and airports participate but if they do, it is worth it. They waive the $20 charge pp for suite guests. I filled out a form on our interactive tv on the 2nd day and on the final night I received our special tags. I put the tags on each of our bags to be checked, put them out in the hall before 11 pm on night 7, and didn't see our bags again until we went to the baggage carousel at LaGuardia airport at the end of our trip. We were flying Jet Blue so we didn't have a bag charge but be sure your bag doesn't weigh over 50 lbs or they will charge you the going rate. Unfortunately there isn't a scale in the cabin so we tried to pack exactly what we came with which was under 50 lbs each. Because we didn't have this extra luggage with us, we were able to fit in a taxi to Fort Lauderdale with our carry ons which cost under $20 for all five of us.
If we were this happy in the Owner's Suite, I can only imagine how nice the even large suites must be. Maybe someday! Please see the link below for other perks that I did not mention. Happy Sailing!