My family and I just returned from our vacation on the Allure of the Seas. What a great vacation! My point of leaving a review is to provide you with a couple of tips that will hopefully help when you are traveling on this large ship. We had a wonderful vacation and hope that you can learn a thing or two from us :)
Get to the port early! We were dropped off by our hotel shuttle at 10:30 AM and we did not wait in a line for registration. By 11:00 AM, we were done taking our initial pictures and were sitting in the holding area, waiting for the ship to allow us on. By 11:30 AM, we were boarding with maybe a couple of hundred other people. The registration process was simple, smooth and painless. Get there early!
First Meal on the Ship:
Do not eat at the Windjammer Cafe (buffet), at all, ever! I did not go to the buffet during our cruise. I had read reviews that it was small and horrible, and other people in our party confirmed it. Just stay away! For your first meal (and any other time), make your way to Park Cafe on the 8th deck, in Central Park. The area is gorgeous and calm, and although the Park Cafe can get crowded, it will be nothing like the buffet. They have a very nice salad bar and people in my party said that the roast beef sandwiches are to-die for. Try it!
Our rooms were ready at 1:30 PM sharp. All went well until we realized that my mom's luggage had not been delivered. Ryan, our cabin steward, confirmed that her luggage was being held in security as there was a "forbidden item" in the luggage. What the heck?? After waiting in a 1 hour line in security, we learned that she had packed a travel iron (we want our clothes to look nice, right??) and that they are strictly forbidden. We knew that the iron was forbidden, but she had taken 7 other cruises and the iron was allowed, so we didn't think that this would be problem. WRONG! Allure of the Seas is looking very closely for irons and bottles of alcohol in suitcases. Everyone in line with me was busted for those 2 things. If you don't want to waste an hour of your cruise (and a little bit of public humiliation!), don't bring an iron! I think that is is $2.00 to have your items pressed on the ship. Just complete the form and leave the clothes and the form on your bed on the first night. Your cabin steward will take care of the rest and deliver your clothes the next morning. No problem!
What is more exciting than leaving Port Everglades on the worlds largest ship? It was great! But get to your spot on the 15th or 16th deck early! By the time that we got outside to say farewell to Florida, all of the railing areas were full.
Vikings Lounge, Floor 17:
One of our absolute favorite spots on the ship was the Vikings Lounge on the 17th floor, towards the back of the ship. It is a large, beautiful bar with nightly entertainment, a great waitress names Josephine and a STUNNING view. Wow. They also have 20% off martinis every night and occasionally a 2 for 1 martini night.
We ordered room service for breakfast almost every day. We had it delivered between 7:00 and 7:30. The food is all right and the coffee is hot, but we ate directly on our balcony. I really missed that, once I got home.
We had late dining (8:30 PM). I think next time we will try the My Time Dining and try to eat at 7:00 PM or so. Expect dinner to take 2 hours...which means that we would leave the dining room at 10:30, totally stuffed and wanting to go straight to bed. We did stay out a couple of times to go to a few bars and gamble, but we didn't party as much as I thought that we would as we were so full from dinner. The only other set dining time was at 6:00 PM and that is too early for me. Try the My Time Dining.
The dining room was the only time on the ship that we felt the mass amounts of people on board. The first night felt like a total cattle call. It was crazy. There were people and food and servers EVERYWHERE. Don't try to step into the aisle way because someone will run you over! We did think that the food was very good in the dining room, however.
Floor 11 Deck:
I am going to share a little secret (although I am sure it has been posted on here before)! Go to the back of the ship and take the elevator to floor 11. Walk to the very end of the hallway and when you come to the end, turn left or right, depending on the side of the ship that you are on. In front of you will be a door. Step out onto one of the best spots on the ship. Essentially, it is a private deck as not many people know about it (or at least never went onto the deck). It has a direct view of the Aqua Theatre, the Boardwalk Neighborhood and the rock climbing walls. It also has an amazing view of the ocean. Lastly, it is a great place to go to when pulling into port as the ship pulls in backward, so you can see how the ship has to maneuver in order to dock. Pretty neat!
We went on an excursion at every port.
At the Bahamas we did a "site-seeing tour" and garden/zoo. I do not recommend this tour. We had to walk about 1/2 a mile from the ship to the van and the van was horrible. The site-seeing was a joke...we were not let out at any point and received very little information about what we were driving past. We got to the garden/zoo and were there for an hour and a half. The zoo was very pretty and they had a show in which there is essentially a man that herds flamingos (yes, you read that right). It was very charming and certainly not something that you see every day. That was the only redeeming part of the exertion. The rest was horrible. I recommend that you take a cab to the Atlantis hotel and take a look around and then do some shopping at the port shops and then get back on the ship.
In St. Thomas we went on a tour to some lookouts, and then down to Meagans Bay for some beach time. This tour was better. The lookouts were beautiful and Meagans Bay was very nice. However, the "safari buses" that we traveled in were the HORRIBLE! They are open air, which is fine, but it was 90 degree and 80% humidity. It was extremely uncomfortable. Also, I could not understand the driver, who may have given great information, but his accent was so heavy no one in our party could understand a word that he was saying! We also did some shopping in St. Thomas.
In St. Martin we went on a tour called Made in Paradise. We drove from the Dutch side to the French side and had a great tour guide name Gabriel. He had a wonderful sense of humor and his accent was French and Caribbean, but very easy to understand. Great, great tour! We visited a very small shop call Ma Dou Dou's that infuses rum with different natural flavorings. They have a very small gift shop with great souvenirs to take home. These rums are unique and the bottles are hand painted. They also sell hot sauce and painted shot glasses and things like that.
We then went to a French perfumery called Tijon. Very nice people that make the perfume and run the shop. If perfume isn't for you, my dad and his friend walked down the street for a couple of beers while the ladies shopped for perfume. Perfect!
After the perfumery, we went to a cooking demonstration at a restaurant called Rainbow Cafe. The demonstration was directly on the beach. Talk about perfect! We tasted 3 different dishes and then had some time to order drinks at the bar, dipped our feet in the Caribbean and took in the views. What a site. This tour is highly recommended.
We had to check our rum in with the cruise ship when getting on from St. Martin. We knew this was going to happen and we were fine with it. We were given a hand written receipt from the port authorities and were told that the rum would be delivered Saturday night to our stateroom. No problem...expect for the fact that Royal Caribbean lost our rum. They did end of crediting our ship account for the price of the rum, but that also meant that the souvenirs that we picked up for our friends and family from this small rum shop were forever gone. Big disappointment :( Also, this was my parent's 39th wedding anniversary and my dad spent the entire evening with Guest Services. Keep your receipts for everything!
There is something called Express Checkout and you can hand carry your bags off of the ship and you are able to get off before everyone else (remember, there are 6,000 people on this ship!). We were going to spend Sunday in Miami, so we wanted to get off of the ship early. No use sticking around, waiting to get off. We packed our bags carefully so that we could carry them off by ourselves, left our stateroom by 6:00 AM and we were through customs and outside, waiting for our shuttle by 6:30 AM. No problem at all! I highly recommend this process. Otherwise, I have heard that getting off of the ship can be a nightmare.
Bags of Beer
If you are going to drink beer while bathing in the sun, buy the bag of beer. The bag itself is pretty nice, and every time after your first purchase, you get a free beer. You are charged per beer so the price of the bag will depend on the type of beer inside of it. You can mix and match. I like Miller Light just fine when casually drinking and they come in 16 oz cans, so you are getting more beer for your buck.
Types of Beer in Port
I always try the local beer while in port. Try the beer called Kalik in the Bahamas. Very tasty. St. Thomas and St. Martin have a beer called Carib. That was tasty too.
I think that is all of my tips, for now! I hope that you can find something useful in this review. I took a couple of days to just observe the ship; I couldn't tell right away if I liked it. In the end, I really loved this ship. For as large as it is, it is very understated. There is beautiful artwork everywhere. Take the stairs a couple of times and observe the different art at each level. The different neighborhoods are great and the ship is easy to navigate. Enjoy yourself, expect to spend some money and relax. You are on vacation!