My wife and I chose to sail on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas because we wanted to experience the magnificent ship. We had seen videos of the ship and knew people who'd sailed on the sister ship, the Oasis of the Seas. The ship is nothing less than grand. We were awestruck by its beauty and layout. Central Park and the Boardwalk are spectacular. All of the staff are pleasant and very helpful.
We've sailed on Carnival 11 or 12 times and on other cruise lines as well. Royal Caribbean is definitely more expensive than Carnival but we were interested in seeing how our first RC experience would compare to the others. Since the cost was higher, we expected better quality. As I said before, the ship was magnificent and no other cruise line can match the Oasis class.
The main dining room food was (in our opinion) average to less than average. I found myself settling for an entree rather than having trouble deciding which one to choose, as we had with Carnival and Celebrity. I couldn't help but feel that they did that to induce you to try their specialty restaurants. One definite turnoff was that main dining room menu included entrees listed for which was a charge, as in an ala Carte menu.
Here's a rundown of some of the things we feel are noteworthy:
This was our first Royal Caribbean cruise. It was the 100th sailing for the Allure of the Seas. The first day is always hectic but boarding was quick and easy. I read about the room amenities online and when we checked into our balcony stateroom, I was surprised to see that the shower only had a shampoo dispenser. We found out that you now have to ask for conditioner and shower gel. The cabin steward said this was a recent change. On other cruise lines, we always had shampoo, conditioner and shower gel as well as a basket of items such as toothpaste samples, razors, etc. The basket of items was given on your first day.
At dinner, the food in the dining room was OK. I expected more since you pay more than with their competitor, Carnival. We did a Mediterranean cruise with Celebrity last year and everything was "first class". You got what you paid for.
We happened to be near an Asian specialty restaurant and decided to see what it had to offer since we had dined at specialty restaurants on other cruise lines. We found that there was a $5 cover charge per person and after that, everything was ala Carte. I thought that was ridiculous. On other lines, you paid say $30 per person and everything was included at no cost, except for alcoholic beverages. We will check out the other specialty restaurants on board and if this is the "norm", then I'll say thanks but "no thanks".
On other cruise lines, when you wanted to go to a show, you just went to the theatre, found a seat and enjoyed the show. I found out that we should have made reservations online before sailing. Maybe it's because of the size of the ship and number of guests. I only found that out about two days prior to sailing, so I had to wait until I boarded the ship. I spoke to a couple at our dinner table and they said they that even months couldn't make a reservation online before the cruise. We had to stand in line and wait to speak to someone about show reservations for the week. Doors open 15 minutes before the show (Chicago), so we arrived at 8:15 PM for the 9:00 PM show. There were two long lines but they weren't organized into "reservations" and "no reservations", so you were somewhat inconvenienced. That needs to be improved. They scanned your sail card to check if you had a reservation and if so, you were allowed to enter.
As with other cruise lines, the show was fantastic. The performers worked their hearts out.
We ate in the Windjammer restaurant. Breakfast was disappointing. The juice (apple and orange) was pre-poured and sat in ice-filled glasses in a bed of ice to keep cold but it was very diluted and lacked the fresh taste of orange. We saw a waiter walking with a tray saying that he had fresh squeezed orange juice but the sign on his tray showed that there was an additional charge, starting at $2.50 per glass. It seems that they are "nickel-and-diming" you at every opportunity. On other cruise lines, you can dispense you own water and juice but not here. Another thing we noticed is that there aren't any omelete stations, so you get only what they've prepared ahead of time.
We tried the scrambled eggs and found that they had a mealy consistency and lacked the robust yellow color of eggs, so we could only conclude that they were instant eggs. How horrible, for the money we paid for this cruise.
Dinner on Day 2 was pretty good.
We went to the OceanAria show at 9:00 PM in the Aqua theatre. It was formal night and the theatre is outdoors. As you enter the theatre, the first three rows are for Gold card members. These are people who have traveled with RC more than once. I'm not sure if you have to have traveled 5 times, 10 times, etc. Since it was our first time, we couldn't sit there. There were only about 10 rows. It's a small theatre. The seating isn't normally a problem except that it was raining and the first three rows were protected by an overhead extension that ended somewhere past the third row, so when it's windy and raining, you get wet. When we got to our seats, it had stopped raining but the seats were wet. We were able to convince one of the servers to get something to dry the seats. He got some paper towels and wiped them but they were still somewhat wet. We sat down in our formal attire anyway. Just before the show was about to start, it started to rain again, so we left our seats and went to the back and watched the show standing up. They should have put more thought into the theatre construction. There should be a retractable cover in case of inclement weather.
We chose to eat breakfast in the dining room because of our breakfast experience in the Windjammer on Day 1. It was a wise choice in view of the fact that we had REAL eggs. Yes, I enjoyed a Western omelet. Toward the end of breakfast, I asked two waiters for a bran muffin. After both waiters assured me I would get my muffin, neither one brought it. I went over to the buffet side of the dining room and took one for myself. Some of the guests at the table asked for more creamer with their refilled coffees. When the creamer was poured, it curdled. It was brought to the waiter's attention and he explained that it was due to the fact that hot water was added, causing that effect on the creamer. Who knows?
When we entered the dining room we were given a choice of buffet seating or menu seating. Maybe tomorrow we'll try the buffet side to see if the instant eggs are served there too.
We tried the dining room buffet this time so that I could compare the scrambled eggs to those served in the Windjammer Cafe. I am now convinced that they use "instant eggs" (dehydrated/boxed) instead of real eggs. There's definitely a difference.
Days 5 & 6
Days 5 & 6 were uneventful, so there's nothing worth commenting about.
We went to the ala Carte (menu) side of the dining room for breakfast. We arrived with another couple. They ordered eggs Benedict and my wife and I ordered omelets. Their order came out in about 5 to 10 minutes. Ours took 30 minutes. They tried to explain that the eggs Benedict were more readily available and ours took longer. I told them that two days ago, our order came out in 10 minutes but it fell on deaf ears. I had to ask 3 times for the toast I wanted.
At dinnertime, I ordered a steak. They only prepare it medium and medium-well, so I ordered medium. As I proceeded further into the steak during the course of dinner, I realized that the steak was cooked medium-well. At that point, I could have complained, but chose not to. I had the same order several nights ago and it was perfect.
It sounded great that RC was offering a three-hour tour of the bridge and behind the scenes activities but it lost its luster when we found out that the cost was $150 each. Thanks, but no thanks.
As with all cruise lines, you can purchase different Internet access packages. I've purchased 100 minutes with other lines and it was satisfactory. Royal Caribbean offered 99 minutes for $55, so I chose that one. To my disappointment, the Internet speed on every day of the cruise has always been 12 Mb/sec. I've tried at midnight, 6:30 AM, 10 AM, 4 PM; it doesn't matter. As a result, everything takes longer to download, burning up the minutes rather quickly. I'm basically checking email and saving things to view offline. The poor download speed seems to be intentional, to make it necessary for you to purchase more time.
I went to the Internet room and they have a sign that states that you may experience slow speed since they are on satellite. I spoke to an employee who also mentioned the satellite issue but I told her that I could understand that being an issue some of the time, not all of the time. She said that you couldn't expect the same speed as you get at home. I said I realized that but I didn't even get 24 Mb/sec. She then said that she also had the same problem. On Day 7, they had a question and answer session in the aqua theatre. It included the captain, cruise director, engineering officer and one other officer. All questions from the audience were random. I asked about the poor Internet speed and was told that it was the satellite and they had the same issue as well. They said that if and when it is possible to take advantage of a faster way to deal with the issue, they would.
Since they admit the speed is poor, they shouldn't charge as much as they do. I don't believe I'd purchase it again until it gets better. It's not worth the price.
Labadee, Haiti -- We enjoyed the visit to RC's private island. We chose not to lounge in the sun. We were interested in picking up some souvenirs. The vendors were like piranhas going after a piece of meat but that's typical so we weren't surprised. RC provided an excellent buffet that included ribs, jerked chicken, burgers, cookies, etc. We really enjoyed it.
Cozumel, Mexico -- We have been to Cozumel many times, so we didn't take any excursions. We were told by Kaitlin who is RC's shopping guide/expert that we should take a taxi to the Forum shops. She said it would cost $7 for up to 4 people. When we disembarked and went to get a taxi, we were told it was $3.50 per person, no negotiating. When we returned to the ship, we were able to get a taxi for $7 for 4 people. Go figure!
For your information, you can get your jewelry cleaned for free on the second floor of the Forum shops. As soon as you get off the escalator, it's on your left.
Walking away from the Forum shops, we came upon a guy standing outside a store and holding a large iguana. You can hold the iguana and have someone take your picture for a price. I don't know how much he wants since I wasn't interested.
The best thing about this store is the bar. You can get two margaritas for $5. That's right. This is not a typo. They are strong! You must find this place!
Falmouth, Jamaica -- Unfortunately, we were unable to go there due to hurricane Sandy.
Disembarkation -- We chose to leave on our own schedule and did not leave our luggage out on the last night. If you have a lot of luggage, you'd be better off letting them take care of it. Then all you have to do is pick it up at the terminal. Disembarkation is always somewhat of a hassle but it went well.