My husband and I traveled with out three daughters (ages 13, 15 and 17) on the Eastern Caribbean itinerary on August 5-12. We had two connecting ocean view balcony rooms. Check-in was a breeze since we did online check-in several weeks in advance, as was disembarkation. It was hard to believe that the ship had over 6200 passengers on it -- very seldom did it seem crowded. The entertainment was really impressive, including high diving and ice skating. All of the comedy acts were good, and the Cruise Director, Ken Rush, should be paid as a stand-up comedian. The food, however, was OK, but definitely not great. Consider purchasing a dining package online prior to departure which includes dinners at the specialty restaurants at a reduced rate. We dined at Chops and found the food to be excellent. We would go back there again. Below are my Top 10 Travel Tips for the ship:
TOP 10 TRAVEL TIPS FOR ALLURE OF THE SEAS
1. Check-in on line before the departure date (on-line check-in is closed several days before the cruise so plan to get it out of the way a few weeks before the cruise.)
2. Order your baggage tags (the tags directing your bags to your stateroom when you check-in at the ship) from the website. RCL will mail the tags to you, but you must do so a couple of weeks prior to the departure date.
3. Make reservations for all of the shows at least several weeks before departure. While you may resist because you do not want to commit to a certain time, it will be worth it once you are on board. The show times work well around dinner in the main dining room, with dinner only taking 90 minutes most nights. While shows usually end up having some seats left for those passengers who did not make advance reservations (although we could not get into OceanAria without reservations but found a spot to stand on the deck above in order to watch), it is nice to be assured that if you arrive at least 15 minutes before the show with reservations, you will get good seats. The best seats for Chicago in the Amber Theater are on the floor level, towards center if possible. The best seats for OceanAria in the Aqua Theater are higher up in the theater since so much of the action is coming from the high dives. Most of the seats seemed good for the ice show in the ice rink. Blue Planet is another show that should be viewed from high in the Amber Theater, but be careful to avoid the columns which obstruct your view.
4. Fly into Ft. Lauderdale. It is one of the best airports we have experienced for cruise arrivals and departures. Bags arrived quickly on the carousel. The taxi fare is about $20, including tip (total price, NOT per person) to the cruise terminal, and takes only about 15 minutes (and we had 5 people with bags).
5. Dining: Consider purchasing a Specialty Dining Package prior to the trip, since these packages are sold at a discount from the individual up-charges that you will pay on board. The food at the main dining room for dinner is good, but definitely not great. Based on our experience at Chops, the food at the specialty restaurants is far superior. Next time, we will definitely purchase the 3 restaurant package in advance for $75 which includes dinner at Chops, Giovanni's Table and Samba Grill. One of the nicest restaurants for lunch was Park Cafe in Central Park. The roast beef sandwich is sliced to order and is really good. Salads are also tossed fresh to your specifications. Good soup. Also the Solarium serves healthier fare for both breakfast and lunch and never seems to be too crowded, even on embarkation day. Park Cafe is also open for breakfast. Another restaurant to visit for breakfast and lunch is the main dining room. Both buffet and ala carte options are available. The thing I enjoyed most about the main dining room for breakfast and lunch, however, was eating at one of the "joining tables" -- large tables that allow you to meet and talk with other passengers.
6. Clothing: I was pleased to see that most people dressed nicely for dinner in the main dining room. On formal nights, most men were in dark suits (not tuxedos) while women were in cocktail dresses and long gowns. This ship provides the opportunity to truly dress for dinner. Even on casual nights, most women seemed to be take the opportunity to dress up for the evening. Having said that, however, there were some people who chose to bypass formal attire and dine in the casual restaurants (Windjammer Buffet or Sorrento's Pizza, for example) on formal night. Whatever you decided to wear, you will generally be in good company, as long as you are appropriate for the dining room you choose.
7. Flow Rider: If your children -- or you--plan to ride the flow rider during the week, I highly suggest making reservations on line before the cruise for a group lesson. The sixty minute lesson is $60, but will help you be able to take advantage of the fun of the flow rider safely.
8. Zip Line and Ice Skating: Socks and tied shoes (either your own shoes or ones provided to you) are required for the zip line. Long pants and socks are required for ice skating. For those who are unsure as to whether to try the zip line, JUST DO IT. It is fun, and only lasts for 10 seconds. You must not have anything in your pockets and no slip-on shoes (like Sperry's) or sandals are allowed. I was pleased to see the rules in place for the safety of their guests.
9. Bathrooms: Hair conditioner, body wash and body lotion are not provided in the stateroom's bathroom, but is available if you either ask your attendant or if you call housekeeping. Shampoo is provided in a dispenser in the shower, along with bar soap. I needed to call for additional conditioner after our initial small bottle ran out in our cabin.
10. Port Excursions: While a number of fun shore excursions are offered, it is possible to save money by some planning. The ship docks in Nassau just a few minute walk into town. The ship has an early departure from Nassau, so a walk around town to do some shopping worked well for the day for us. In St. Thomas, it is possible to easily take a taxi to Megan's Beach (one of the top 10 beaches in the world) for only $9 per person each way. (This is the same beach that the ship's excursion takes the group to visit.) The taxi to go into Charlotte Amalie for shopping is only $4 per person each way. In St. Martin, the water taxi is only $6 for an all-day bracelet allowing you to ride to and from the shopping district, and beaches are on the edge of the shopping district.
11. BONUS TIP: If you are looking for a covered, more secluded place to read or relax on the ship, go to the very back of the ship around the walking/jogging track. There are some wooden deck chairs there and you will get a great breeze when the ship is at sea. We saw a few people there relaxing when we used the walking/jogging track.