We just returned yesterday from our 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise on Allure of the Seas. I just want to mention the highlights as it pertains to families other important things I wish I had known about the ship.
I landed in Fort Lauderdale with my family and we had booked a transfer through the cruise line to the ship. in retrospect I do not think that was necessary. Sure it made things simpler by following the tour group onto a bus which then later drops you off in front of the ship, however you could easily take a cab to the ship and spend about $20 with tip which saves you a lot of money. I would recommend just renting a pushcart for $3 and pushing your luggage to the curb where a line of taxis is waiting.
Sign up for the shows early. If possible online and if not possible as soon as you get on the boat. You'll be surprised that the shows are sold out and you'll have to wait to see if they're already available seats during the time you'd like to watch.
Here's a quick review of the shows.
Chicago: Off Broadway quality but not children appropriate (the show itself was good).
Aqua show: excellent and child appropriate, The acrobats are amazing and the diving is unbelievable. You can't believe you're on a cruise ship during the show, don't miss this.
Blue planet: excellent show, child appropriate don't miss this either. they showed Madagascar are Europe's most wanted in 3-D as well as several other movies throughout the ship.
Embarkation is a breeze. There is a line for Gold Crown and anchor members, Just make sure you fill out that one page set sail form and bring your passports and credit card. after we got on we had our backpacks with us. You may not see your luggage until 5 PM that evening so prepare with a change of clothes and swimming gear. Unfortunately when we arrived on Sunday it was raining cats and dogs so everybody was inside. That was the one day where it seemed crowded on the ship. After that the ship did not seem crowded at all, in fact it only seemed crowded the 1st day and the last day.
The 1st thing my wife and I did was purchase a soda package for about $44 each. That saved us money throughout the cruise. The nice feature about this was no matter where you are you can ask for a Diet Coke and they'll give it to you. On Disney cruises sodas are free but only on deck 9 AFT and otherwise any other bar or restaurant you have to purchase a Diet Coke. You also get a nice Royal Caribbean mug.
There are numerous photo opportunities throughout the cruise. We ended up taking pictures often on the ship during island stops as well as dinner and with characters on board. I recommend taking as many pictures with the photographers as possible and just buying the disc at the end of the cruise. It is a bit pricey at $399 but so worth it since we have 2 formal nights and several photo opportunities. The children actually liked having their pictures taken throughout the ship and the backgrounds were very good. It was like having 4 or 5 professional photo sessions included which more than makes up for the price. The photographers actually come to your dinner table and take pictures of individual passengers as well as groups. They also have facial recognition program so you don't have to continuously give them your room card. Characters such as Shrek, Alex the lion for Madagascar are on board so keep an eye on your daily events for those photo opportunities. About this disc however. On the last day of the cruise at 7 AM there was a long line to pick up pictures and discs. I recommend showing up at 6:45 AM to get in line so that your be the 1st to get your disk. I showed up at 7 o'clock and had to wait 35 min.
The dining room was actually very nice. You can sign up for "my time dining" & whenever you want, however you still have to make a reservation for that dining time. We signed up 1st for seating which is at 6 PM and we were still able to make many of the shows we signed up for. The food is actually very good. Remember they are cooking for 6000 guests so I would compare it to convention food. It is still better than anything you cook up at home but probably not equal to your favorite dining establishment but still very good. My wife and I are vegetarians and there were several vegetarian options, although pretty monotonous at times. I broke down and had fish a few times which was good.
The ship has several pay restaurants that I did not indulge in ver often. We did try Rita's Mexican Cantina on the boardwalk decks 6 which was totally worth it. We went with a party of 10 got 2 tables had margaritas and Mexican food during lunch and had a great time. This restaurant was ala carte so you pay-as-you-go while some of the other restaurants are between $25 per person per meal to $40 per person per meal. I did hear good feedback about those restaurants.
On the back of a ship deck 16 was the Windjammer Cafe a cafeteria style dining area which surprisingly was very good. Yes, it is crowded at times, however the positives are you are seated quickly, you are fed quickly, and they make it a point to leave the restaurant as soon as you're done to make room for other guests. The negative is we were on the front of the ship this restaurant was in the back of the ship and there are other choices along the way. We probably ate there a total of 5 or 6 times and we were not disappointed each time.
Nonpaying restaurants is the way to go. Midway through the cruise. Here are some secrets that other people did not realize until midway through the cruise. On deck 8 there is central park Cafe which was our favorite place, It opens up for breakfast and lunch but not for dinner. For breakfast you can have breakfast sandwiches (delicious) and for lunch they make to order sandwiches and choose your own salad which they tossed individually just for you. There are also desserts and chips such as Doritos, Lays, and ruffles. I often asked for one or 2 bags and then he does later on that evening during a movie or watching TV in your statement. This was one of our favorites back places. You can also go to Sorrento was on the Royal Promenade with really good pizza. also on the boardwalk they have a hotdog stand which has Brat worst, hot dogs, Polish sausage, but no french fries! On deck 15 in between the swimming pools there is a self-serve ice cream machine which people don't learn off till the end of the cruise. On the front of the ship there is an adults only section that alas I did not get to spend time in because I was with the kids the entire cruise. They have their own meal area, also there is the wipeout Cafe on the back of a ship deck 15 by the ping-pong tables and sports deck which has a nice taco area and lunchroom.
If you are early riser, go to the Cafe Promenade on deck 5 they have 24-hour coffee and pastries. the trick here is to go behind the counter and ask for a portable coffee cup with lid then you can fill your coffee cup and walk around the ship. Several times during the cruise people saw me with my coffee and asked where I received It. Then again you could always do room service but if everyone else is asleep it's better to just leave and go to get your own coffee.
The best feature by far is room service. I did not utilize this until the end of the cruise. Breakfast in bed especially if you have a balcony is the way to go. This is free and you can order a full breakfast along with a pot of coffee danishes toast and they deliver to your state room. When I got this feature I made sure to tip the cabin attendant $1 or $2 which they really appreciated. Then I had my coffee on my balcony had breakfast with the TV and news going all in my PJs.
There are plenty of swimming pools on deck 15. You have to check out a towel and make sure to return the towel at the end of the cruise will be charged $25 per tile. This is no big deal since you can charge 2 towels per stateroom card so just make sure you turn those towels in at the end of the cruise.
There are ATMs on board but they charge you a surcharge to get money so make sure you bring plenty of cash before you get on the ship. You can actually have cash withdrawn from your account at the casino but there is a 3% charge with any cash withdrawal, kind of ripoff. There is a safe in your cabin so no worries there. I left my valuables in the cabin without a problem.
The exercise facilities on deck 6 forward were pretty impressive the running track on deck 5 goes around the ship and it takes about 2.4 laps equal 1 mile. My wife ran almost every day but she chose the treadmill since it was pretty humid out there. I only ran 3 times and 3 miles at a time so bring outsiders no big deal. There are drinking fountains along the running track.
The kids club on the ship was not well-received by my children. It's on deck 14 forward and you have to sign up for this as soon as you get on the ship. They divide them in age groups so my children were separated from each other. They spent about an hour in this program but it is not as good as Disney's Child program. You do have an option to allow them to check themselves in and out, however with the lack of communication (walkie-talkie or telephone) I did not feel good doing that. The good thing about Disney cruise line is every cabin has two cell phones that work on the ship. It would be nice if the RCCL had free phones like Disney. There is a small arcade on deck 14 appropriate for young children and we spent about $100 throughout the cruise playing those games. There is a bigger arcade more appropriate for teenagers on the back of ship.
St. Thomas. we spent the day at Sapphire Beach. I highly recommend this beach. Just get off the boat ask your cab driver to take you to sapphire beach which is about 20 min. drive. While on the beach you can rent beach chairs and rent snorkeling gear. It's a small quaint beach which is perfect for children. There were birds and aquatic life that you can see from the shore. snorkeling gear was about $5 per hour and snorkeling for an hour is plenty of time. The key is to get there early and get a shaded spot. There was about $11 a person for the taxi so that was the most expensive part of it and the beers are about $2 a beer so cheaper than on the boat. We left around noon and had lunch back on the ship. We showered in our cabin and then went back on the island to do some shopping.
St. Martin. I don't think the shopping here is anything better or different than St. Thomas. we got on a water taxi and once on shore rented a beach chair for about $15 for the entire day or $20 and it comes with a bucket of 6 drinks! You can get a bucket for about $12 all day long. And that's what we did. I later for $60 rented a jet ski and took my 2 children are with me and had a blast out of the water. I do not recommend eating at St. Martin. it took them forever to get us our food and we could've just gone back to the ship and there for free.
Nassau: We took that excursion to Atlantis which was amazing. It's expensive but well worth it. In fact we may take vacation in Atlantis next time.
As a family we spent most of our time on the boardwalk, the pool area, the Royal Promenade, and relaxing on our balcony. I wish there was a more comprehensive child program but the teenage program was actually pretty good. I think my kids are just in between the stages where it requires a little bit more than babysitting however not independent yet to be in the teenage club. All in all we still had a wonderful time. I think they rode the carousel on the board walk at least 30 times!
This ship is such a neat concept and I would like to sail on the Alllure again in perhaps a couple years but all in all I think we're going to try a smaller ship next time.
We had an early flight on Sunday but we were able to walk off the ship right away if you're willing to pull your own luggage.
You will really enjoy your cruise, we sure did!