My wife and I cruised with our 12 year old son and almost-10 year old daughter. It was the kids' first cruise, and my wife's and my first since 1993. We've done lots of traveling with the eastern USA and Canada with the kids, and my wife and I have also enjoyed the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America.
We'd planned to stay Saturday night at Embassy Suites - 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale and then board Allure of the Seas on Sunday morning. DIDN'T HAPPEN THAT WAY. :-(
While waiting in the security line at Atlantic City International Airport, I received an automated call from Royal Caribbean informing me that our Sunday sailing was postponed to TUESDAY due to Tropical Storm Isaac. Ugh! We flew to Fort Lauderdale and found ways to keep our kids occupied Saturday afternoon, all day Sunday and all day Monday in a beach town experiencing the outer bands of a tropical storm. I'll spare you all those details as it's unlikely you'll ever be in a similar circumstance. But I can say I can highly recommend the hotel. The accommodations were treat, and he location is great not only because it's across the street from a shopping center and two different supermarkets, but also because of the nearby Sun Trolley that for 50 cents takes you to the beach.
In handling this delay, RCI did one thing very poorly but did EVERYTHING else very terrifically.
The only thing they did poorly was inform passengers about what to do in that circumstance. On Saturday, either their phone lines were busy or they gave incomplete or incorrect information.
However, we eventually learned the good news. RCI was doing the following for everyone: reimbursing up to $125 per cabin per night for hotel; reimbursing up to $100 per person per day for meals; reimbursing up to $50 for transportation from hotel to port on Tuesday; onboard credit based on cabin category [I think they did only three categories, ours was the lowest at $650 per cabin] ... and the OBC was refundable back to our credit card at the end of the cruise ... in other words, it wasn't use it or lose it; we were also refunded (via onboard credit) for two days of pre-paid tips and port charges for ports we wouldn't be calling on.
The reason I and most other passengers were so satisfied with this is that RCI had no legal obligation to give us a dime. The cruise contract and even the RCI trip insurance we bought does NOT cover you for weather-based delays. In this instance, Port Everglades was closed by the Coast Guard, so it's not like RCI was responsible for the delay. The fact that they came through for us do well speaks to their customer service. They were not obligated to do anything for us.
Along with missing two days of the cruise, we were going to miss two of our three western Caribbean ports of call. Instead of calling on Labadee (Haiti), Falmouth (Jamaica) and Cozumel, we'd be calling on Cozumel and Nassau (Bahamas). During our days in Fort Lauderdale, I went onto the RCI website to try to book a Nassau shore excursion, but I couldn't do it because it was past the booking deadline (you normally can't book shore excursions past about five days prior to the cruise).
So anyway, when we finally got to the port on Tuesday morning, boarding was very efficient. Naturally, there were long lines on Deck 5 for shore excursions, since no one could have made advance arrangements for Nassau. The reduced days and changes in itinerary also affected show and meal reservations. The ship's staff automatically made what changes they could. For example, even though we were calling on Cozumel on a different day than originally scheduled, our RCI-booked shore excursion was automatically rebooked for the correct day. For the excursion in Jamaica and the cabana I pre-paid for in Labadee, the full amounts I paid was credited to me as OBC (and again, was fully refundable to my credit card). They added some show times for some shows missed from Sunday and Monday. They failed to rebook one show, and it was already "sold out" by the time I tried to rebook it, but they said this happened to lots of people and they knew it was their fault; since I had printed proof of my pre-existing reservation that wasn't rescheduled, they told me to take it to any showing of that show and we'd be let in ... and we were.
We enjoyed everything about Allure. The meals, the shows, the casino, the sports activities. I had no idea that one of my son's favorite activities was going to be ping pong! The zip line and Flowrider were great. I booked a semi-private lesson for my kids and me ... lines for everything were especially long because we had less than the usual time to fit everything in, so I decided to pay for the lesson (they take no more than 8 people per hour) in order to give us smoke guaranteed time to enjoy it. It was well worth it.
A word of caution about the zip line. make sure you wear closed and secured shoes (no slip-on shoes like I was wearing), NOTHING in your pockets, no jewelry except rings and very small earrings. They won't hold onto your stuff for ou, so unless you have someone to hold it for you you are out of luck.
The only bad information we received was to make sure we brought pool towels with us on our shore excursion to Atlantis Aquaventure in Nassau. They're big towels, it was a pain to haul 4 of them only to learn as soon as we got there that picking up an Atlantis towel to use for the day was part of the initial tour of the facility.
Atlantis Aquaventure was way overpriced but it was definitely fun. Yes, there were long lines. Yes, the food was expensive. But the place really was quite impressive as well as fun.
In Cozumel, we did the Everybody Loves Rays excursion. It was fantastic and I highly recommend it if you're into wildlife. You are taught basic stingray info, then you stand in ankle-deep water and hand feed them, then you st and in waist-deep water and hold them, then you snorkel and see hundreds of them in a large penned-in area of deep ocean. We paid $45 for the CD of about 50 photos of our family in all stages of stingray fun. The excursion includes the ride there and then a ride either back to port or into town. We went into town and made the mistake of eating at Senor Frog's. Yes, I know it's a touristy place (been to the one in Cancun) but we knew there'd be food on the menu for our picky 9 year old. Way loud, bad service. I ordered shrimp tostadas. I was served fish tostadas. I told the winter, he told me I ordered the fish. I told him the only type of tostada on the menu is shrimp, he said I asked if I could have fish instead of shrimp ... I said all of two words when I ordered, and as you can guess, those two words were "shrimp tostada." I know it wasn't a language barrier problem because our waiter spoke better English than many Americans. My son ordered a chocolate milkshake, and I saw them make it ... not made with ice cream ... it had soy milk, seltzer, chocolate syrup and ice and was put into a blender. Hmm ....
We booked two connecting category F ocean view cabins in the beard front of the ship. Our windows faced directly frontwards, and we had a nice view of the helipad as well as the ocean beyond. These were 9102 and 9104. There was a note in each room that at night we MUST keep the curtains tightly closed so that any light from our room didn't shine up to the bridge directly above us and cause them visibility problems. We loved our cabins. We would have liked balconies, but there were no ocean balconies in connecting rooms when we booked. It was nice having two bathrooms, and the two cabins combined were about the size of one regular hotel room. We'd definitely recommend these cabins.
I was active in our sailing's Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle thread, and it was nice even on this shortened cruise to go to the Meet & Mingle and meet some of the people I'd been "talking" to for months. It was hosted by a member of the cruise director's staff.
The gym (Vitality Spa) was much better than I thought it would be. Very spacious, very modern.
We ate two dinners in the MDR, two in the Windjammer (buffet), one at Johnny Rockets and one at a speciality restaurant, Samba Grill. The MDR was very good, the Windjammer was good, and Johnny Rockets was very good for what it was. Samba Grill was fantastic, and if you're a carnivore it's something you have to try once. It was our first time at a Brazilian steakhouse. I don't know if I'd eat someplace like that too often, but it was definitely a worthwhile experience. We enjoyed the free pizza at Sorrento's. We loved the cupcakes at the Cupcake Cupboard even at $2.75 or $2.95 apiece. The free hot dog place was interesting because of all the unique types of dogs available.
My kids really enjoyed the free self-serve frozen yogurt machines on the pool deck. Okay, I really enjoyed them too!
There wasn't enough time to do and see and experience everything, but we enjoyed every minute we were there. We've already booked another cruise on Allure's sister ship, Oasis, for next fall.
Random helpful tip: there is a "hidden" electric outlet on the wall behind the bed. Root around for it and you'll find it. I read this in a Cruise Critic forum and it was true and it was VERY helpful.