Feb. 3 - Feb 10 Eastern Caribbean
Sat: 2/2: Three of us (me, my wife, and 13 year old granddaughter) took a 7:55AM flight out of PHL on USAir. Although we were at the airport in plenty of time, getting through security was crazy! Once we were cleared, were among the last to board the plane with only about 10 minutes to spare! Apparently there were bunches of early morning flights on Saturday which accounted for the packed security lines. The plane took off exactly on time and it was a very pleasant flight to FLL. After a rather short taxi ride, we arrived at our pre-cruise hotel, The Lago Mar Resort. The hotel and grounds were simply beautiful. Although we arrived very early, were allowed to check in and then proceeded to enjoy all this resort had to offer. After leaving behind 20 degree weather back in PA, Ft. Lauderdale looked and felt like a tropical paradise. The staff at Lago Mar was outstanding. Everyone was cheerful, friendly, and very helpful. They really went out of their way to make our overnight stay one to remember.
Sunday, Feb 3. After a short taxi ride from our hotel, we arrived at Port Everglades. Seeing the Allure for the first time literally blew my mind. Prior to the Allure, the largest ship we sailed on was on Liberty of the Seas, a Freedom class ship. Even from a distance, the Allure seemed at least twice as large!
Embarkation was the easiest, ever. It's been said that RCCL has this process down to a science and I'll have to agree. From dropping off luggage with a porter at the curb to actually walking up the gangway took a maximum of 10 minutes! I really enjoyed Royal's new policy which allows two bottles of wine, per cabin, for personal consumption. Once aboard, we followed everyone else to The Windjammer for a bite to eat. Luckily, the elevators weren't yet crowded and The Windjammer had plenty of room. Our cabin was ready at exactly 1 PM and our luggage arrived at about 6 PM. Our muster drill was held at Studio B, sans life jackets, and took only about 20 minutes. A short video was shown describing safety procedures, life jacket use, and all the rest.
Our first meal at the MDR was outstanding! The prime rib I ordered was an excellent cut of meat and cooked exactly to specification. There were a few glitches in service on the first night but they were ironed out as the cruise progressed. I'll chalk it up to "opening night jitters." Our waiter was Daniel from Macedonia and was friendly, outgoing, funny, and very attentive. He learned my first name on night one which is always a great personal touch.
We were able to get reservations and saw "Chicago" on the first night. Great music, great cast, and everyone loved it.
Monday 2/04/13. Nassau, Bahamas. Since the return time to the ship was at 1:30 pm, we decided to just hang around and explore all the Allure offered. Central Park, the Boardwalk, Royal Promenade, the Solarium, and elsewhere. Out of all the venues, Central Park was the most beautiful and impressive of all. Although the sounds of song birds were "canned," you could almost see them flying around. It would be interesting to have butterflies in this area, though and would make it feel even more natural. Just every review about the Allure I've read mentioned how great the roast beef sandwiches were at the Park Cafe. After having one today, I'll add my name to the list- absolutely delicious and among the best roast beef sandwiches I've ever had. These sandwiches are a definite must have!
Tuesday: Saw Ocean Aria. A very well-produced and entertaining diving and trampoline show. It was amazing how the divers hit the very small area of the pool from the highest point of the ship! The music and choreography was outstanding and there was a standing ovation at the conclusion of the show. This was one of those "don't miss" shows aboard the Allure.
Wed. Feb 6. St. Thomas. The day dawned cloudy and a bit rainy so many people got off to a late start for their excursions and other plans. Went to Megan's Bay around noon and it was sunny with blue skies there. The sand was like powder and the water nice and warm and gentle. The best part of going to Megan's is the hairy taxi ride up and down the mountains with all the hairpin turns.
Thursday, Feb. 7. St. Martin. Took a taxi to Orient Bay to spend the day. It was a perfect day with big puffy white clouds and a bright sky. The water temps were at least 80 degrees! After about 3 hours of sunshine, swimming, and relaxing, we headed back to the ship. This was probably the best day of the trip.
Friday, Feb. 8. Sea Day. Formal night. Prime rib and lobster tail. Again, the prime rib was excellent and the lobster tail was a very decent size! Way to go, Royal.
Saturday. Feb. 9. Sea day and last day of cruise. Packing is always the saddest part of a cruise. No one likes leaving a week of tropical weather in the middle of winter to return to reality. The week truly flew by because there was always a lot to see and do each day. We carried all our bags off in the morning in order to catch an early flight back to Philadelphia. Clearing customs once off the Allure was a very simple process taking only about 10 minutes. The lines were probably much longer for those using traditional departure and disembarking later. On the news there was talk of a major big snow storm called Nemo. Luckily, it didn't affect our section of suburban PA and our flight took off and landed right on schedule.
Room attendant: Monique from St. Vincent/Grenadines: very, very friendly and outgoing. We always had plenty of ice and she went above and beyond to give good service.
As mentioned before, Royal has both embarkation and debarkation down to a science. With the number of passengers the Allure has, this is no easy feat without a lot of planning and streamlined procedures.
Some final thoughts. At first, I wasn't sure if I'd like traveling on such a mega ship. I was afraid of hoards of people, long lines everywhere, and an overwhelmed staff. I found my fears to be unfounded. Since there are so many neighborhoods and activities all the time, I never once felt the ship was crowded. Sitting in Central Park, for instance, was the most relaxing spot, for me, to enjoy quiet time and feel a part of nature. The only time the crowds were noticeable was during the busy times at the Windjammer. Beginning on day 2, we ate breakfast at the Adagio MDR where there was never a wait and the pace was a lot more leisurely. Besides the Adagio, there were several other areas for food so it wasn't necessary to be a part of the crowds at the Windjammer.
In a previous review (Mariner of the Seas, 2011) I mentioned that the coffee was horrible and was a terrible way to cut corners. This time, the coffee seemed to be of a higher quality and tastier despite having a Starbucks onboard which was extra $$$. Even the orange juice was more flavorful and not the watered down variety served just a few years ago.
Would I sail on the Allure (or Oasis) again? In a heartbeat! Although all the other ships in Royal's fleet are nice in their own way, there was just something very special about the Allure. Exploring all the new areas and being impressed by her sheer size will never fail to amaze. If anyone would like more information about my experiences on the Allure, please feel free to write me at: mystyou(at)Comcast.net. I'll do my best to describe the myriad feelings and impressions I got from this exciting and fun cruise.