My wife and I are experienced cruisers with 14 prior cruises under our belts. We booked this cruise to experience the many unique attributes of The Allure of the Seas and Royal Caribbean did not disappoint. From the moment we arrived at the port in Fort Lauderdale it was clear we made the right decision in booking this cruise.
Embarkation: We live in Orlando Florida and chose to drive to Fort Lauderdale and park inside the port. We arrived about 11:15 a.m. and drove right up to the luggage drop-off. The baggage handlers were very courteous and quickly and efficiently gathered our bags. Parking was literally across the street and although more expensive than outside the port parking the few extra dollars was worth the convenience. We had booked a guaranteed Jr. Suite and was escorted into the entrance for guests in suites and walked right up to the embarkation counter. Looking around I noticed that there were virtually no lines anywhere and all guests were obtaining their boarding cards quickly and efficiently. A short 5 minutes later we were walking up the gangway to the ship. It was now about 11:30 and the staterooms were not ready for occupancy until 1:00 so we went up to the Solarium Bistro for lunch. The Bistro provided an excellent selection of healthy fare that was just the right way to start our cruise. It was strangely apparent that with 5000 passengers boarding that there were no lines and we found the seat of our choice, an experience which we would repeat numerous times when dining. We experienced our first outstanding meal aboard the Allure.
Our Stateroom: It was a last minute decision to book this cruise but a deep discount for a guaranteed deluxe cabin along with an added discount from our travel agency Explore Travel sealed the deal. We were initially assigned a cabin on deck six but a few days later I noticed a Jr. Suite on deck 8 became available. I called the Crown and Anchor desk to inquire if they could change our assigned cabin, as it was in the same category no problem and we were reassigned to cabin 8640. We had never had a cabin category higher than an outside veranda on any of our previous cruises so were we in for a surprise. When entering our Jr. Suite I was awestruck by its size, we actually had elbow room in a cruise ship stateroom. And we had a real walk in closet to boot. Walking out onto the balcony we found it also to be oversized with two chase lounges and a table with two chairs, if we could only have had this room on our last cruise when vacationing with friends. Oh, I failed to note that our baggage was waiting for us at 1:00 when we proceeded to our stateroom. The stateroom was clean and neat, with lots of information left for us to digest. By the end of the cruise we were quite pleased with this stateroom, location just steps away from the Central Park neighborhood, and just a short walk to any and all venues either by stairs or the elevator. We had an outstanding room steward who always greeted us by name and made sure that we were well taken care of meeting our every need.
Dining: Our goal for this vacation was to experience the Allure of the Seas and that certainly included the many dining options. Prior to departing I had pre-booked The Chefs Table package that included the Chefs Table, Chops Grill and 150 Central Park all for only $120 per person. The Chef's table by itself is $95 per person so if you enjoy fine dining the package is the way to go. But I am getting ahead of myself; I had also reserved My Time dining reservations on-line prior to departure and had our first reservation in the Adagio Dining room on deck five was on night one. Upon entering the dining room we requested that the hostess seat us at a window table and we were graciously accommodated. There was a new menu being featured this week on the Allure and our table waitress Lucille was very excited about it and explained it in detail to us. The food on this night and on succeeding nights was outstanding from the hors d'oeuvres, to soups, salads and main courses. And of course the desserts did not disappoint. We enjoyed our waitress and assistant waiter that first night and we requested while leaving the restaurant that we be seated in her section for each of our reservations in the Adagio, again I was pleasantly surprised when I was told no problem and it was taken care of. And it was, each time we had dinner in the Adagio (4 dinners spread throughout the week) we were seated at the same table even though our reservations times were varied.
We were equally impressed by the specialty dining beginning with an unforgettable experience at the Chefs table. The chef's table is a five course meal paired with wine served in an exquisite dining area upstairs in the concierge room. Our Chef greeted us, explained the menu for the evening and proceeded to wow us with each course which he personally presented. The wine connoisseur also discussed each of the wines we were to experience and explained how they would enhance the flavor of each course. At the end of the meal the chef presented us with an autographed copy of one of the ship cookbooks. If you can spare the extra dollars and enjoy fine dining this is an experience not to be missed. Our dinners in the Chops Grill and 150 Central Park were equally impressive. I particularly enjoyed the meal in 150 Central Park another culinary delight for the senses.
For our breakfasts and lunches we dined in one of the many smaller dining venues or in the Adagio dining room. We had breakfast in Johnny Rockets, Park Cafe and the Adagio; lunches were in the Solarium Bistro, Park Cafe, Adagio, and Wipe Out Cafe. As noted earlier we never had a problem with lines or crowds. We also sampled the donuts from Boardwalk Donuts on more than one occasion. There are so many dining options it was impossible for us to experience all of them so we have something to look forward to on a return cruise.
Entertainment: The advertised entertainment was one of the main reasons we chose to cruise on the Allure and we again were not disappointed. I made reservations ahead of time (if you do nothing else make these reservations) to each of the shows tailored to our dinner reservations (we always planned to complete dining an hour before show time). Even though we had reservations we always went to get our seats about 30 minutes early which was a good idea as others had the same idea and the premium seats went fast. Every one of the shows from Chicago, The Oceanaria, Blue Planet, to Ice Games (the Ice Skating Show) were superb. I enjoy music and Broadway and these shows exceeded all of my expectations, very high quality exceptional entertainers in each. They also highlighted an A Capella group called Mo5aic that performed a variety of songs from opera to hip hop while vocally synthesizing various musical instruments that was quite outstanding. In addition to the main shows performers from each performed in various venues around the ship. I particularly enjoyed a jazz quartet featured in Jazz on Four, unfortunately they normally had a small crowd probably because the venue Jazz on Four is located in the bowels of the ship on deck four, an area you normally don't pass by often if at all. I have to believe that with 5000 passengers there were more jazz enthusiasts aboard than came to the nightly performances. On one afternoon the musicians from the main stage band formed a Dixieland Band to my delight. We also participated in an extra cost activity called the Prohibition Party that includes good music, an open bar, and a simulated Speak Easy environment, something I would recommend if you are into that type of party. Many individuals attended in 1920's garb (including my wife) which added to the enjoyment. My wife insisted that I dance the Charleston with one of the show girls!
Activities: There is plenty to do on this ship for everyone. This old man personally took advantage of the Climbing Wall and the Wave Rider Pool. There is a lot going on each and every night in every one of the many venues so whatever is your thing you will find it. Again we ran out of time and did not get to take advantage of many of the activities on our punch list, another reason to return.
Ports of Call: Your standard Eastern Caribbean cruise. I will cover a little in detail in the separate section on this topic.
Disembarkation: This was the only minor disappointment. Although RCL tried to make it smooth it was rather slow. We had an early disembarkation number but when ready to leave we were advised we had to wait in the lounge because of congestion. Sure enough once we got down to the baggage retrieval area (which was well organized) it was congested. We quickly found our bags only to have to wait in a very long line to get through customs. Once through customs it was a very short walk to the parking lot and we were on our way.
There is little that RCL needs to do to improve upon the Allure experience, however two areas come to mind. One is to make the whole ship smoke free, the few times I came across a smoking environment it was quite annoying. In particular the casino reeked of smoke and as a result they failed to take any of my hard earned cash that I would have been pleased to give them if not for the smoke smell. Second is the Wind Jammer Cafe (buffet), although it is supposed to be easy to navigate the Island design made it difficult and hectic. Also some of the amenities found on other RCL ships (and Celebrity) were not offered like the omelet stations in the buffet, fresh made cheese blitzes, fresh waffles with fruit and whip cream, etc., RCL needs to figure out how to incorporate these into the Oasis class ships.
However once all is said and done we were quite pleased with this cruise. The Allure of the Seas is definitely a destination onto itself and we will most certainly cruise on her again.