I thought I would write a review of my first ever cruise... for a first cruise, going on the worlds largest cruise ship was a little daunting but you know the saying 'go big or go home!'
I am 25 and travelled with my mother who has done 2 previous cruises in Europe with RCI. My mum has walking difficulties and uses crutches to walk so the sheer size of Allure was a concern for both of us which turned out to be completely unjustified.
BEFORE BOARDING AND BOARDING:
We flew from LHR to MIA on 8th November and spent 3 nights in Atlantic Resort & Spa in a 1 Bedroom Oceanfront Suite - oh my goodness, it was wonderful! The staff were friendly and helpful, we had a package with continental breakfast included and the location right on the beach was superb! On the morning of 11/11/12, we took a taxi to Port Everglades at approximately 10.30am. The journey took a little longer than normal due to the half marathon that had been taking place but not to worry, our taxi driver was incredibly chatty!
I had done an incredible amount of research before this holiday so on arrival at the port I made sure to give a fairly generous tip to the porters and hoped this would ensure our bags arrived nice and quickly (not to mention in one piece and not having taken a dip in the port!) Mum and I quickly went into the check in area. We had a Grand Suite so were able to use the dedicated suite check in area. There was a lady waiting there for guests in the much higher suites but as none of her people were there, she escorted us through and straight up to a check in desk. Our check in agent was polite and friendly, printed our passes and in no time at all we were going through and up to the boarding area. Every time someone saw that my mum used crutches, they escorted us to lifts or held people back to ensure she was not crowded and had plenty of room - I thought this was a lovely touch.
After a very brief wait, we were straight on board and welcomed on to the Royal Promenade. I was in awe! You didn't feel like you were on a ship at all! We found a seat outside Starbucks and treated ourselves to a nice cold drink. At 12.45, we made our way to the stairway outside the corridor to our stateroom and as advertised, promptly at 1pm, the doors to the corridors were opened. We purposefully picked the stateroom we did because of its close proximity to the lifts and ease for my mum. As we were walked down the corridor no more than 5 metres or so, to our sheer amazement, we saw our suitcases waiting for us - turns out tipping the porter worked VERY well! As I was opening the door and trying to get the cases in, our stateroom attendant (Dessai) came and found us, introduced himself and helped me with our cases. He gave us a brief 'tour' of our room and noticed mums crutches so advised us to head to the muster station about 20 minutes early and that way we could avoid the crowds and use the lifts (what an angel!)
We settled in, unpacked and then went for lunch in the Windjammer. Sure enough, at 4.10pm, we were called for the drill which all ran very smoothly and then we headed back to the room for sailaway. I can't tell you too much about the rest of that evening as it turns out I suffer from seasickness... Enough said!
We had Grand Suite 9260. It was a lovely room, incredibly large with plenty of storage. The perk for me was the proper size bathroom and the large balcony with loungers. It was always immaculate thanks to Dessai and the location was perfect. I would thoroughly recommend this room! The perk of having a GS or higher is the gold seapass and trust me, it helps to have one of these! You don't have to make show reservations, you get dedicated seating and whilst I am sure the staff are lovely to everyone, I did feel extra special!
Bahamas - we did Blue Lagoon Island. This place was actually paradise and I would go back in a heartbeat! We were there very early due to our itinerary and I would recommend this. Later in the day and as more ships arrived in Nassau, it became a little more crowded but there was still room for everyone!
St Thomas - I did not enjoy St Thomas at all. It was not what I had expected and our tour was scary to say the least. We did the Island Tour and Beach at Magens Bay. Our driver was not friendly, the bus was dangerous and everywhere you went it was over crowded with people being herded like cattle. We were dropped at the beach and given 2 hours. Our driver was nearly an hour late getting us and when he did come back, he was not apologetic at all and then drove like a lunatic to get people into town for shopping. I was not feeling well at this stage so headed straight back to the ship. That evening I developed a migraine and was quite unwell. Mum went to dinner and afterwards complained at guest services for how bad the whole trip had been and they refunded half of my tour cost which was good of them.
St Maarten - absolutely gorgeous. The tour we were meant to do was cancelled due to poor underwater visibility so we were refunded half our tour cost each and taken on an extended island tour. The guide was lovely; very friendly and very funny! We had time for shopping and actually went round the entire island. I would love to spend more time on this beautiful island.
Before the cruise, mum had told me that she and my step-dad tend not to use MDR and stick to the Windjammer. However, after a couple of lunches in the Windjammer, we decided to try the opposite. The windjammer, considering the size of the ship and the number of passengers, was incredibly small and cramped. We had 2nd seating in MDR on a table for 10. 4 people never turned up but the other 4 people will remain friends for life - we could have asked for nicer, funnier or more charismatic people. We had room service on a number of occasions and enjoyed the perks of being in a suite and being able to order anything we wanted. It was always correct and delivered within the 40 minute timeline given on each occasion. We also pre-ordered the soda package. Our coca cola mugs were in our room on arrival and the system worked well. The machines and the mugs tended to be temperamental but given their usage, I am not overly surprised by this.
Mum and I did a couple of classes on our sea days... Napkin folding Level 1 and 2 and we also went to a couple of talks and quizzes. These were generally well organised and usually well attended. Most of the staff were clearly passionate about what they did but the guy doing napkin folding level 2 clearly didn't want to be there! We watched the International Men's Bellyflop which was unbelievably hilarious and a Ken Rush and Zack deserve commendations for their boundless energy and Ken's version of Gangnam Style in a fat suit was priceless!
Unfortunately, due to feeling unwell on a few occasions, I did miss some of the shows. What we did see though was incredible. OceanAria and Blue Planet are not to be missed! I would love to do a back to back cruise just to make sure I have the time to see everything because 1 week really is not enough!
Let's start with the bad... The concierge staff in the lounge were appalling; rude and unhelpful are the 2 most polite words that I can think of and I struggled to find those!
Now the good... John our waiter in the MDR was lovely - as were the assistant waitress and the Maitre D'. They learnt our names and remembered our drinks orders. The night I was ill after St Thomas and my mum went to dinner alone, they were incredibly concerned and offered to send food to me. The following night, all 3 of them asked after me and looked after me incredibly well. That was more service than I ever expected.
Now the incredible... I cannot speak highly enough of our stateroom attendant Dessai. As far as I am concerned, he deserves a Knighthood! From the first moment he met us, he had already memorised our names and did everything that he could to make our cruise more enjoyable. Nothing was ever too much trouble for him and he worked incredibly hard. Several times, I would reappear at the room without mum (after a show I tended to walk back to the room rather than wait for the ridiculously crowded lifts) so he would go off to the lift to find mum and make sure that she got back ok too. He was kind and courteous and another person who was extremely concerned about me when I was unwell. Dessai made our cruise and for that, I cannot thank him enough.
Our luggage had to be out by 11pm on the last night. We had selected an early disembarkation as we had a transfer booked to Miami for our 1 night stay at the Fontainebleau. We were able to use the concierge lounge facilities (and was greeted with the same poor service) until our number was 'called'. Please note, numbers are not called so we had to get up every few minutes to check the board for the times - not a big hassle, just a little inconvenient. At 7.35 we disembarked and got through very quickly. Getting the luggage was fine, ours was there but some people had items missing and as we needed a porter to assist us, we ended up standing and waiting for quite a while which wasn't great for my mum.
Go on Allure, you will love it! I loved it so much I am going back by myself next year to do the Western Caribbean itinerary! I would thoroughly recommend a Grand Suite for the space alone. Captain Tommy was lovely, although I only met him once on the first formal night and the promised suite guests Captain's Cocktail Party never happened but that isn't so much of a deal. There are so many places to eat that I would avoid the Windjammer completely if you are able to. I went big for my first cruise and believe me, I did not want to go home...!