I thought I'd write this review slightly different from other reviews as I will highlight different topics and my thoughts on those topics. There's a lot out there already about Allure, so this time I will simply just point out the good and not so good.
I was traveling with a group of 16 as their tour leader, all good friends. I was to have had a friend travel with me, but her mother took a very bad turn for the worse the day before we left, and with her mother at age 95, she had to cancel. I completely understood that decision as I would have made the same one, but I was worried about traveling alone with a group of middle aged couples and a few single friends. In the end, we all ended up doing much of the same things, so I really had nothing to worry about and only had to endure a few breakfasts by myself. Whew!
Royal really shines in this department. Every cruise line should learn from them, hands down. The only issue we had was that we had booked a pre-stay at the Hyatt Pier 66 and our transfer bus didn't get to our hotel until nearly noon when we were told to be in the lobby by 11 AM AND it was an incredible hassle to even find anyone who knew anything about that transfers.
Condition of Ship
I was on the inaugural of this ship, so it's been over a year since I've been on her. She still looked pretty brand spanking new and I was pleased to witness that. Not that I would expect anything less, but you never know with that many folks aboard.
We salied with right around the 6200 mark. As I experienced on both her and Oasis before, I would have to say that about 97% of the time it felt less crowded than Freedom class ships. Of course right after a show or at peak times, getting an elevator did tax my patience slightly.
THE number one thing I noticed more on this cruise than any I've done before is the outrageous behavior of the 13-16 year olds running the halls during the day and all hours of the evening, even coming to the Viking Crown Lounge at 10 PM without supervision and no one says a word. The teacher in me was screaming inside but giving the kids "the look" usually did the trick (didn't really want to be on teacher duty during the cruise). It certainly annoyed me that no one from Royal was watching or caring. I also found it odd that this age group didn't seem to participate in shows or planned activities. Perhaps jumping stairs and running up and down staircases and hallways is way too exciting to miss!
On more than one occasion some of the quinceneras bombarded an elevator before letting others out and before letting an older lady on a scooter in the elevator. I was flabbergasted. Of all the kids, the girls celebrating were the ones who on more than one occasion barged in or jumped line and seemed to have the attitude that they owned the ship. Maybe there could just be one cruise dedicated to them for their celebration so that we all wouldn't have to endure their rudeness around the ship. Every person in my group felt the exact same way and made many comments regarding their behavior. Not sure why their parents didn't correct them.
Lunch at the Park Cafe cannot be beat. If it were a restaurant on land, I would visit every day. Perhaps on Project Sunshine we'll all have a bigger Park Cafe because that is certainly needed.
Johnny Rockets is also my pick for great milkshakes. I have a hard time paying for a cover charge to eat there otherwise since I don't see any difference between their hamburgers, fries, and onion rings than elsewhere.
Now the Dawg Shop got rave reviews from my group. On more than one occasion after a shore excursion or just a tough day in the sun everyone raved about them and they always seemed to have business.
I wanted to try Rita's Cantina again since I had only eaten there one time on the inaugural but we never got the chance. The first time I thought it was just so so but at least this time I actually witnessed folks eating there.
Didn't do any of the specialty dining since none of us are gourmet eaters. The MDR's food was actually better than I had remembered from my last cruise. There's nothing better than the warm chocolate cake and the garlic soup. We did find it incredibly odd this time that our waitress was overly pushy about filling out our guest satisfaction form for her service. She did a great job and we kept telling her that, but she went way over the top reminding us at least 10 times how to fill them out. We're all seasoned cruisers and we all know what to do and she knew that. It was very, very strange and quite a put off actually.
Breakfast was in the Solarium Cafe, MDR, or room service. All were quite good and quick. Loved the turkey bacon in the Solarium Cafe but I wish they had egg white omelets too.
For the first time ever, I avoided the WJ completely and from what I heard, that was a bonus! Every time we looked at how full the various venues were, the WJ was always showing red. I can't imagine that so many folks just can't change their ways to try something new. Their loss was our gain since we never had any issues finding great places to eat breakfast and lunch.
The cones in the Wipeout Cafe were also excellent although I really question why in the world they located them where they did. Doesn't anyone else think that too?
I had an accessible balcony on deck 10 since I have issues with my legs and need the handles, etc. in the bathroom and enough room for the pump for my legs. Sleeping at sea is always one of the treats I enjoy since it never seems like I sleep that well at home. The beds are super comfy and the sheets delightful. If only ever night I could be gently rocked to sleep without sleeping on a water bed!
Cruise Director and Staff
Ken Rush was the CD and Belle was the Activities Director for the week. I know a lot of folks like Ken, but I'm kind of on the fence on that one. Although he's upbeat and always "on", to me he comes across fake at times and trying waaaay too hard to be funny or liked. Belle, on the other hand, seemed to be incredibly upbeat, positive, and genuine.
Not big on parades so none of us did those but we were in the area when they were going on and saw how many people were lined up for them. I suppose if you had little kids they might be fun but I would never go to them otherwise.
The Ocean Aria was splendid and just as engaging the fourth time around as the first. Definitely one of Royal's finest shows.
Chicago was done beautifully but we could not stop laughing about 45 minutes into the show. Practically the entire balcony got up one by one and just walked out. This went on for the remainder of the show a couple at a time. It got to be hilarious to guess who would leave next. Although the show was very well done, I just don't understand Royal's choice of this show. Not for a family, not even a story line that was appealing. I didn't see it the first time onboard and only went because the group went this time. Loved Hairspray and hoped that they would change this to something a little more upbeat and family friendly. In my opinion, this was not one of Royal's finest choices.
The headliner was a ventriloquist. At first I thought I'd have to take one for the group, but it turned out to be an outstanding performance, very different from what I expected and incredibly funny. Not your typical ventriloquist act for sure! Superb!
The Comedy Club was also not to be missed. It got to be so funny that the last comedian kept going past the allotted time just playing off of the audience. We all laughed until our sides hurt. Outstanding!
Didn't do the ice shows. Have seen them more times than I care to and they're all about the same.
The Love and Marriage game show was also hysterically funny as it usually is.
Never made it to the Quest either. It was at 11: 15 or so, way too late for the majority of my peeps and I didn't think I could stomach Ken Rush any longer that day. Sad, because it is usually one of the highlights of the cruise, especially when the team wins!!!
If Royal is reading this, please, please, PLEASE put back the one big pool in the middle on Project Sunshine. I know that by design you just couldn't do that on these ships, but the pools are outrageously full and for ships that are made for the Caribbean and sea days you need more. The solarium pool was also super crowded and the solarium itself was ridiculously hot hot hot. I'd love to see a pool space like you'd find in an upper class land resort onboard next time. Plus there's no way they can be sanitary. The sign on the Main Pool said max occupancy was 26 but there were close to 80 people in the pool. Didn't have a problem finding a deck chair any day to my surprise and the bar service was quite good.
Now it would be super awesome to have an infinity edge pool somewhere but that could be super scary and not practical in the least! I would think it might be neat too if there were some suites with their own little pool outside but then those folks might never leave their area and spend money other places.
Having been to all of these islands more times than enough, I really didn't have in mind anything at all but found out that I was pleasantly surprised with several choices we made.
The Nassau stay is just WAY, WAY, WAY too short. I love Atlantis and love to go over there and enjoy the water park. I know that so many others don't like Nassau but in order to take advantage of all Atlantis has to offer, you really need another two hours there.
Since we didn't have a lot of time, we opted to take the #10 bus on George Street to go over to the Sheraton and use their beach and pool. Great choice! The bus ride was $1.20 I think each way and there was no charge for the beach or the pool. DEAL.
In St. Thomas, I went with a part of the group up the tram car to Paradise Point to catch a little different view. I hadn't done that for a number of years, but it was still interesting. When we got back, my friends wanted me to go on the Sapphire beach excursion and I obliged. Wrong choice. The beach was not only filled with rocks, but the place was scummy in my opinion. I couldn't wait to get back onboard to shower. Note to self: still haven't found a great beach in St. Thomas so I'm done with beaches there.
St. Maarten was a different story. There are two places I really love outside of Nassua: St. Maarten and Grand Cayman so I was pumped to be back there again even though it had been only 6 months since I was last there. Took the Ultimate Island Tour even though I've been around the island but just loved going over to Marigot, having a little time to shop there, then transferring to small boat for a short hop back over to Phillipsburg. Made it back to the ship in time with a little time to shop beforehand.
I have NEVER seen so many people running for those $10 sales! Honestly people, you can get that same stuff at home, in your airport or in your local mall. Get real!
Since my father smokes and against my better judgement, I did bring home one carton of cigs for him. He told me that the prices onboard are half that of what he pays.
The tshirts they have for sale definitely need to be much cuter like they used to be. Whatever happened to the bling shirts and the cute ones? Now they're just plain boring or ugly or made for men only.
One one pet peeve with the other stores is that the sizes need to be for plus sizes too. What, do they think that anyone over a size 12 is not shopping? Who are they kidding? Why is everything for the stinking teeny bopper crowd??? ARG!!! Oh well, it kept me from spending money onboard!
One of the coolest things to buy is the Britto markers with the color me poster. You can make it look exactly like the one that he has done, using his markers and frame it when you're done. Not only will you have something you'll make and have fun doing so, but it's a really nice piece to hang. Quite a deal at under $20.
Now for my rant about the Coach store. HOLY COW! The Coach sale was worse than Black Friday morning in some cases. Don't these people realize that these prices are the same as the ones at home in the outlets???? Now if Royal has any sense, they would follow Disney's lead with Dooney and ask Coach to create a pattern EXCLUSIVE TO THEIR SHIPS. I don't understand that thought and why that has not been done. I would pay a premium to have something like that.
I have a hard time staying OUT of the casino in the evenings, but after reading something here on CC about payoffs and regulations on cruise ships, I can honestly say I spent WAY less than I normally would have had I not read that article. The first night was fabulous, but I spent it all back the second night and never really had much trouble staying out from there on. Only ever won consistently on one ship, and that was last year at Christmas on Celebrity. However, my sister's friend won the free cruise in the slot tournament. You can be the judge, but I hope I learned my lesson last year on this same ship. It's not worth it!!!
Debarkation was super smooth as we did the walk off. Got off the ship well before 8 AM and could have EASILY made a 10 AM flight from FLL although we took the 11 AM one.
-The ship is HOT! It was hard to find cool air anywhere and that really affected the swelling in my legs.
-No matter what line, or what ship, it seems that waaaay too many kids are running around in the halls.
-Yes, I still miss the traditional opening and closing shows. Maybe no one else does, but I do!