Here are some thoughts I had on my cruise. Let me know if you have any questions or want to know more about something specific, and I will try to answer.
EMBARKATION / PRE CRUISE
We stayed at the Doubletree Gallery One for our pre-cruise night. I was going to stay at the 17th Street Embassy Suites, but we needed a 2 bedroom suite. Hotel was fine, no complaints. We asked for a taxi at the valet stand, and the woman indicated we could take a car service (Escalade) for $8 per person. We decided to do this, even though I knew it was a little more expensive than getting a taxi but about the same if we needed to take 2 taxis because of our group (5 people). We left for the ship about 11:00 am and were on board before noon. Check in was simple and we were directed right onto the ship, no waiting.
Cabins were ready by 1:00 pm. We had a D1 on the 10th floor. I am not sure the bigger balcony was worth it but it was a good location. Our bed was by the closet and it would have been better to have the bed by the balcony, but I didn't know about the alternating setups until well after I booked. Me, my wife and 7 year old son shared the cabin. The room only seemed "tight" when the sofa bed was made up. The bathroom is small but was functional. The shower "capsule" worked well, but was a little tight if you tried to wash your feet. There was shampoo in a dispenser on the wall, and bar soap.
Here are the restaurants we ate at, with some comments for each. I know food is very subjective, overall I think the food on board was good. This was probably mentioned previously on these forums, but there will be a menu change on the Allure on October 21, 2012, or so we were told.
Main Dining Room (Dinner) - We had my time dining, and made reservations online. I did it late, so couldn't get the exact times I wanted. We were traveling with my sister who also made reservations online at different times, but was able to link us to 2 nights. In actuality, they were very flexible letting all of us (5) in at our reservation time and also flexible with being a little early or late for the reservation. We had the same waiter and assistant waiter (Keith and Damon who were excellent) every night except the first. The service was excellent, the food was good but nothing spectacular.
Main Dining Room (Breakfast) - They offer menu items as well as an express breakfast buffet. The food was good, especially on sea days when they offered the chocolate breakfast items. My wife loves chocolate croissants, so she asked for extras and they brought her a plate of 5, even with a cover so she could take any extras back to the cabin for later. Service was excellent. If you went later in the morning, you did have to wait in line for a table, but the line went pretty quick. We also went to one of the Character Breakfasts, but I will comment on that in the "DreamWorks" Section o f this review.
Windjammer (Breakfast, Lunch) - The Windjammer was usually always very crowded, but we could always find a seat. I would say the food here overall was fair to good. The service was excellent with waiters offering beverages, cookies/ice cream and making sure everything was ok.
Park Cafe (Snack) - The only thing I got here was the roast beef sandwich as I wanted to try it. This was delicious as others have noted. My sister ate here and said the "make your own salad" was very good.
Wipeout Cafe - This is a small buffet with items like hot dog, pizza, hamburger, fries and tacos. This food was ok for what it was. We ate here on embarkation day for lunch since it was pretty empty and the windjammer of course showed as full.
Sorrentos - Pizza here was pretty good. They have premade cheese and pepperoni pizza where you can always get a slice. They will also custom make a personal pizza with various toppings of your choosing.
Cafe Promenade - Got some brownies and cookies from here, they were ok. They also have some premade small sandwiches, I tried one once, it was ok.
Cupcake Cupboard - My wife and son got a cupcake from here. My son of course like the cupcake, my wife said it was only ok. She is used to Crumbs cupcakes from NYC though. My son also did the cupcake decorating class and made a "monkey". He enjoyed the class.
Izumi - My wife loves Sushi and Tempura so she wanted to eat dinner here one night. She said the Sushi was good but not great and the tempura was not as crisp as she would like. I had gotten the Hot Stone beef tenderloin, where you cook the beef yourself on a small hot stone(575 Degrees) they bring you. This was pretty tasty and interesting to experience.
Rita's - We ate lunch here one day. The food was very good and although ala carte pricing, it was fairly cheap. My double frozen mango drink cost ($16) more than the food ($8) for the 3 of us.
Johnny rockets - This is typical Johnny rockets food, good burgers, unlimited fries/onion rings etc. They only have a small number of indoor seats, but a large number of outdoor seats on the boardwalk. It can get very hot eating lunch here outside.
Johnny Rockets (Breakfast) - You can get breakfast for free at Johnny rockets. The menu is limited and was only fair to good.
My son loved seeing the DreamWorks characters. The characters we say on the ship from Madagascar were: Alex, Gloria, Mort, King Julian, Penguins. From Shrek, we saw: Shrek, Fiona, Puss N Boots. They had 3 different character breakfasts, which we signed up for the first one online beforehand. I didn't see anywhere to sign up for this using the cabin TV once onboard. For our breakfast, the 3 Shrek characters came out and did a little dance, then went around to each table to have pictures taken. The characters would be around the ship at different times for 15 minutes intervals for pictures. Some of the appearances said "professional photo opportunity", while other said to bring your camera. Even at the "bring your camera" they also had a ship's photographer taking photos. The characters were also in the parades, the welcome aboard show and a "let you entertain me" show.
I hadn't reserved any shows online and tried, but was getting errors about 2 weeks prior to cruise. We were able to sign up on embarkation day as well as using your TV.
Oceanaria - This show was probably my favorite. A lot of good acrobatic stuff as well as diving etc.
Ice Games - This ice skating show was pretty good. The best part were the "guest" performers who did some incredible stuff with balancing and skating.
How To Train Your Dragon Ice Show - You don't need tickets for this show. It is based on the movie of the same name, there was more story than ice skating so my 7 year old really enjoyed it.
Blue Planet - This was my least favorite. There was a lot of singing and some dancing, but not as much "action" as I would have preferred. Many times it seemed like they would do something good, but didn't. The "Underwater" effect during one part of the show was good.
Chicago - I didn't see this. My sister saw it and thought it was excellent.
Comedy Club - We couldn't get tickets because of the small venue, but on the last night they had a special comedy show in the Amber theater. There were 2 comedians. I didn't think they were very good, they had a couple of good lines but a lot of the other stuff was predictable. They even told similar versions of the same joke (not sending kids to their rooms anymore because it is fun). Others in the audience were laughing a lot more than I was.
I will only mention our excursions briefly, as I will do a full review on another Trip Reviewing Site.
Lord Sheffield Tall Ship (St Maarten) - This was a sailing and snorkeling excursion. We enjoyed this and would recommend it. The snorkeling was ok but we didn't see "tons" of fish.
Blue Lagoon Dolphin Swim (Nassau) - We swam with dolphins and loved this excursion. We also spent time on the beach there. Getting there was a mess. The excursion said to meet at 7:45, which we went to the dock and got a wristband for the excursion. In addition to the various Dolphin excursions, Blue Lagoon also had a beach excursion. We waited around the ship area until 8:30 when we walked to the end of the dock and boarded a small boat to the island. This took 15 minutes based on the amount of people going , which was probably about 200 or so. Not everyone fit and they needed to use a second boat. It was then a half hour ride to the island, so we actually didn't get there until 9:15.
The technology on board was great. From the cabin television you can look up your bill, reserve shows, dining, excursions etc. You can also view your calendar to see what you have scheduled and add other manual events. For Bingo they have electronic hand held (fairly large) units that give you 30 games per round and keeps track of the cards for you and tells you if you have won. Also, they have the interactive TV's around the ship that show you directions, cruise compass, restaurant availability etc. For the reserved shows, they scan your seapass card to verify you have a reservation, rather than give out paper tickets. One little know (at least to a lot of people we spoke to) function of the kiosks on the promenade is that you can print your calendar there.
My son tried this twice but didn't have a great time. One thing I didn't like was that the schedule for AO was just general titles of events for each morning/afternoon/evening session. They didn't list specific times for specific activities and you couldn't really tell what the activity was going to be, when it would be or how long it would last.
The casino was rather large, and was divided down the middle into smoking and non smoking sides. They have all the regular games as well as electronic BlackJack, 3 Card Poker and Texas hold'em poker. The slots (and above mentioned electronic card games) usually opened at 9am on sea days, the table games at noon. Poker was using the electronic tables, so I didn't play any of the tournaments this trip. They also had cash games going sometimes.
All the crew we encountered were friendly and very helpful.
The Boardwalk area was pretty neat, some days they were selling cotton candy and popcorn. There was also a balloon artist and face painter available at various times. They were both very good, the balloon artist especially, she made very "complex" creations. This was her first time doing a cruise, I don't know if they have other similar artists on each week or how that works. She said she would be back in March probably.
The only time we felt crowded was on sea days in the pool area, the pools were very crowded but that is to be expected. There always seemed to be room in the hot tubs.
My wife did the flow rider lesson for $60 and had signed up for this online. This lesson is with up to 8 passengers and 2 instructors. There were 8 passengers in her group. They also have private lessons, but I am not sure how much that cost. We didn't realize the lesson she signed up for was a group lesson until she showed up for it.
They have the photo kiosks to view your photos, but they still print every photo and put it in your book. You would think with their conservation efforts they would stop printing every photo, but I guess they want people to see and hold the product to get them to buy it rather than just on the screen. The facial recognition software worked pretty well to "tag" us in photos and load to our photo book. But we did have some of my sisters photos in our book rather than theirs even though we weren't in the photo. This was probably because we had taken some group shots with them earlier in the cruise.
We had a 10:55 flight from FLL, so we chose self debarkation. We originally had a flight after noon, but several schedule changes later and it ended up this early. We left our cabin at 6:40 and were at our gate by 7:45. They said self debarkation was from 6:45 to 7:30, but I saw others leaving the ship after 6:15 or so.