My husband and I are in our 40's and are the parents of a 14 year old girl. We are from Atlantic Canada. Though our family has travelled a lot, we are by no means rich. The two of us go away every year in the Fall- over the past several years we've gone to Vegas; however my hubby has had "Allure of the Seas" on his "bucket list" for a few years, so we decided to give it a try. We've cruised before (Disney Dream X 2) - both of which were only 3 days.
Before the Cruise--
I booked with Royal Caribbean directly (phone call). We booked 8 months in advance and chose a balcony room (ocean- not central park), mid ship, on the 12th floor. We received regular e-mails from RCL informing us about several things including: My Time Dining, Shore Excursions, Entertainment bookings, soda packages, water packages, wine packages, gifts etc. I thought that RCL did a great job informing us about the importance of pre-booking the shows, time for My time dining, shore excursions etc... I am a highly organized so I booked EVERYTHING in advance. Entertainment was not bookable until about 4 weeks before the cruise (check the website about 8 weeks out, and continue checking). We got the soda package (for 1), 24 water ($ 90!!!), Excursions, Wine package (X 5 bottles), and another 3 bottles from the "gift" section (these 3 bottles were waiting in the room when boarded, along with the glass for soda, the water, and the tickets for the shore excursions we booked. I had also signed the waivers and filled out all the other paperwork in advance. About 6 weeks before the cruise, my hubby checked the website to see if the cruise was sold out. In doing so, we discovered that the prices had decreased... We called and asked if we could pay the difference (another $ 300) and upgrade to a Junior Suite. We were told NO. I told the gal at RCL that it disappointed me etc. We hung up and to my surprise, she called me back 15 minutes later and said she had discussed it with her supervisor and that they would do it- so we changed from a Balcony room on the 12th floor to a Junior Suite on the 7th floor (going to a lower floor was also great, as I had heard that the higher the floor the more movement you feel).
We arrived in FLL on Sat. night ~ 7 pm. We stayed at the Fairfield (it was ok). We booked our transportation through the hotel and were on the 10 am shuttle to the cruise terminal. Because we were staying in a Junior Suite, we were able to enter the "Suites" door. The terminal was virtually empty. We registered quickly, and waited in the waiting area (there is a separate place for "Suites" guest to sit which has a few extra pillows, but ultimately it is the same area. My hubby and I each had a water bottle filled with rum in our carry ons, which we got through with no issue. We boarded the ship at about 11:30 am. Suites guests boarded first. We received a glass of champagne upon boarding (not sure if this was a Suite perk, or for everyone). Hubby and I went straight to the Park Cafe, and had a roast beef sandwich (yummy!). It was not busy when we arrived but quickly got ++ busy. The ship is absolutely GORGEOUS. I was not expecting it to be as elegant as it was (I was pleasantly surprised. I thought the ship was easy to navigate (having the interactive displays (to help you navigate) at the elevators) was VERY helpful. At 12:50, we went to the 7th floor to check on the status of our room. The room was ready!! And it was BEAUTIFUL. HUGE!! For us, the upgrade to a Junior Suite was well worth it. I cannot say enough about how much I loved the room. For me, the room is a big deal- I love to read and relax, so do end up spending a fair bit of time there. The wine I ordered was chilling on ice. We met our stateroom attendant, Derique, who we loved immediately. We asked him to make sure we always had ice, and he obliged throughout the cruise. Bags arrived at 3:30 pm- more rum stashed in the suitcase (in rum runners). We checked out the pools, and I had a glass of wine (poured in my room, and brought up on deck). The muster drill occurred at 4'ish and was a non issue.
We had My time Dining, and as previously described, I had booked specific times to eat in advance. With My time, you do not have the same table or waiters the whole time. But by night 2, we had requested the same waiter and table, as we loved the waiter and table we received that night. This was easily accommodated. The food is fantastic in the MDR. My brother in law is an Executive Chef (currently working at an exclusive winery), so I think my assessment of the quality and taste of the food is accurate. It is definitely not to the caliber of a 5 star restaurant, but they are preparing food for 6000 people vs. the 200 covers a 5 star restaurant would do a night...so please put it into perspective. My favorite meal in the MDR was the lobster and shrimp night (I was skeptical about the lobster as being from Atlantic Canada, I have had my fair share of lobster, but it was absolutely delicious!! We ate EVERY dinner at MDR.
We ate at the Windjammer a few times for lunch, and I enjoyed both my lunches there. Good selection (the fries are delicious!!)- I did not find it overcrowded. We also ate at the Wipeout Cafe, and we really enjoyed the tacos there. Cafe promenade was ok, and park cafe was great. I had a couple late night pizza slices at Sorrento's, and it was good (typical pizza).
Of note- I did not like that the windjammer is not open in the afternoon or later in the evening. We often found ourselves wanting a small snack after a show before going to bed, and the only places that were open was Sorrento's and Cafe Promenade. Also... the deserts are ok... not worth the calories in my opinion.
It was good. Not fantastic but good. Honestly I was expecting better. Having said that, we've seen every Cirque show in Vegas and several Broadway musicals. So please take my comment with a grain of salt. They were all entertaining, but not OMG...
Ports of Call--
Labadee was ok. We got off the boat to buy a few things and that was all. I thought the merchants were a bit aggressive, and honestly I felt sad there... After purchasing our goodies, we proceeded to board a billion dollar vessel, leaving behind these poor folks starving and hungry... Not my favorite.
We missed Falmouth, Jamaica because of Hurricane Sandy.
In Cozumel, we did "Salsa, Salsa, Margarita". We had a ball!! Super fun. I really liked the people in Cozumel.
I thought the service was amazing. Particularly from our stateroom attendant, Derique, and our wait staff in the MDR, Richard and William. On the final day of the cruise, I realized that I had 1 bottle of wine left in my wine package and we were not having supper that night until 7:45 pm. So, I went to the MDR to ask if I could get my remaining bottle of wine (to drink in the afternoon). I was told that I had to go to the 5th floor (MDR is on the 4th and 5th floor) and ask there. The guys there were more than helpful!!
Movement on the Ship--
I was super worried about being sea sick ... On Disney, there were times I was nauseated (I have a stomach of steel, so I don't know why I am affected by the movement- I've never been car sick , can ride roller coasters forever, so I'm not sure what this is all about). I started taking Bonine (only available in the US) on Saturday, and took a Gravol (? Only available in Canada) at night (Gravol makes me ++ tired). I kept this routine going throughout the cruise. You can absolutely feel the boat moving- not always, but a lot of the time. There were 3 times on the cruise that I would say it moved A LOT. Once in the afternoon on the day we missed Jamaica when we were at sea, trying to get ahead of the storm; for the whole day on Saturday as we were making our way back to FLL, and SIGNIFICANTLY on Saturday night. It moved so much that the water in the bottle I had beside my bed was audibly sloshing around. There were only a few times that I felt briefly nauseated for the whole week.
- we loved the boat
- we didn't think that for us there was a ton to do- having said that, it was a great restful and relaxing vacation
- Casino was fun (that's where we went when we weren't sure what we should do- it was ok- certainly not Vegas, but fun.
- We did not do Flow Rider (though we watched a lot) nor the zip line, nor ice skating.
- Babbling Brooks (Alan Brooks is the Cruise Director- he does a morning show every morning (it's on your TV) - we enjoyed he and the show a lot.
- The Cruise Compass is helpful and we read it cover to cover each night.
- All my cruises from here on will be a Junior Suite.
- I question if 7 days was a bit long. We found it hard to be disconnected from the world for that long. I had an international texting package on my phone, so I was able to keep in touch that way, but I did miss the internet (available on board but there is a cost and it's SUPER SLOW), the newspaper and regular news (CNN is on TV, but with MAJOR news stories only).
- We will do it again, but would choose a different destination (not in the Caribbean).
- Though I thought it was expensive, I think the value for the $$ was ok.