This review may appear lengthy to some -- however it is very informative and worth the read through, if you never been on a cruise or thinking about taking a cruise on an Oasis class cruise ship then this is worth the read through.
This is our second cruise with Royal Caribbean our first being on the Jewel of the Seas a Radiance Class Ship, this review will cover the everything from first loading the ship and unloading. It is definitely worth reading.
Deck: 14 State Room: 704 Outside Balcony -- Dock Side
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean 7 day Cruise -- Bahamas / St Thomas / St Martin
After learning from our first cruise about boarding ship early -- The four of us decided to head to the port at 10:00am the day of departure in hopes we could avoid unnecessary crowds and late arrivals. Our luggage was promptly unloaded by the porters and we were in the main port building area within 10 minutes. Our transition time through boarding customs was less than 10 minutes and we were on the main loading floor by 10:45am, from there we had a 40 minute wait to board ship -- so all in all we arrived at Port Everglades at 10am - processed our paperwork and on the ship by 11:30am. Excellent service by the porters and agents.
ON BOARD THE ALLURE
By all means when you first board the Allure it is absolutely breathtaking -- the design features the colors the overall appearance was absolutely beautiful. However bigger is not always better. There were only a few greeting people available and when we asked which way to our state room -- we were pointed to a kiosk and the elevators. It was relatively easy but very confusing as well. After finally getting to our state room we were surprised to see our luggage already waiting at the door -- We were welcomed in by our State Room Attendant "G.G" she was absolutely -- undeniably fantastic. She was extremely helpful in helping us to get our bearings on where we were and how to locate our state room a little easier based on where you were on the ship. She without a doubt made our boarding and cruise experience an ultimate pleasure. A Big Thanks to her.....
ROUND AND ROUND WE GO
After we settle in at our state room -- we decided to tour the ship and see what the Allure had to offer. We started off in the Windjammer to get a little something to eat to tide us over. It was extremely busy with little to no seating & by time we did find an area to sit in our food was cold and wasn't to appealing. Nonetheless we ventured on.
THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOODS
NOT in a bad way -- actually it was rather interesting on how the Allure seem to capture the essence of 7 different areas of the ship that they dubbed "Neighborhoods"
#1 Central Park is based on Deck 8 with five decks of balcony staterooms on either side. Amerced with living trees, vines and flowering plants, that is perfectly arranged among winding paths. Because this area is wide open in the center of the ship there are several seating areas -- and some covered for when it rains.
This area also serves as a portal to a few premium restaurants as well such as Chops Steak House and Giovanni's Italian and 150 Central Park -- The premium fees range between $15 and $30 extra per person.
#2 The Boardwalk is on Deck 6 aft and features a Carousel with 18 hand carved animals; in its entrance are several horses in various stages of carving and painting, Along both sides are typical Coney Island style shops and stands: Johnny Rockets a 1950's hamburger joint, Candy/taffy shops, and a terrific Boardwalk Dog House, serving hot dogs, brats and sausages. This area also house Rita's Cantina a premium Mexican restaurant. At the stern of the ship at the end of the Boardwalk you will find the Aqua Theater --- with high diving, synchronized swimming, and acrobatic routines: Along the side you will see (45') rock climbing walls
#3 The Royal Promenade on Deck 5 features a village center with Cafe Promenade, Sorrento's Pizza parlor and the Bow & Stern Pub with music each night. You will also find the "On Air" bar and a variety of on board shops. There is also a replica of a 1936 Mercedes Benz 540 convertible in the center of the ship great for picture taking or backround shots.
#4 The Pool & Sports Zones, located on Decks 15 and 16, has two "Flow Riders," very popular surf simulators, located on Deck 16 aft, are fun for both surfers and spectators; Mini Golf, the Zip Line on Deck 16, suspended 89 feet from deck 6 There is a basketball court and ping pong.
#5 Vitality at Sea Fitness Center is forward on Deck 6. There is a "Thermal Suite," massage center and the gym with the state-of-art cardio & fitness machines. The longest jogging track at sea (2.4 laps = 1mile) is the outside promenade on Deck 5.
#6 The Youth Zone is completely geared to children and teens with a Science Lab, Video Games and even a nursery at sea. Teens are treated to their own area with an out door deck, nightclub, video arcade and a variety of different itineraries throughout the cruise
#7 Studio B (Deck 4), where the Ice shows and skating are held, Jazz on 4, the Comedy Club and other shows are held
Cruise Director Allan Brooks is by far a busy -- busy person. Every day you will see three pages of Daily Activities on board the allure. He begins each morning with his TV program "Babbling Brooks" -- You can also submit questions or announcements to Alan in the morning at the main customer service desk and he will read them during his program the next day. There are headliner shows -- Bingo -- trivia contests -- musicals and a variety of other things to do on board.
Ok now for the Food -- undoubtedly there is absolutely no shortage of that on the Allure -- however there is a few draw backs as you will read. I will scale these One through Ten -- Ten being the best.
Adagio Dining Room - Overall Rating = 7
Timing / Seating Rating = 4 Food Rating = 8 Service Rating = 9
Unbelievable that a ship of this size has absolutely no room to stand prior to eating -- We seen lines coming out the entrance down the hall -- into the elevator -- around stare cases and even into the state room hallway -- I couldn't tell what passengers were in line for -- If you didn't think there was 5,400 passengers on this ship -- you will definitely think so after this waiting period. Limited menu and absolutely no escargot available from day one, I was extremely disappointed but what made it worse was they tried to substitute scallops cooked like escargot. On the Plus side our
waiter Mike and his assistance waiters were fantastic.
Chops Grille Overall Rating = 6
Timing / Seating Rating = 9 Food Rating = 7 Service Rating = 4
With no reservation the restaurant was still able to seat us -- so this worked out great.
We order the main steak at Chops / it was bland with no seasoning -- but cooked to order -- The service was very slow. Overall since this restaurant is located in the central park neighborhood I think you pay more for ambience then food or service quality.
Rita's Cantina Overall Rating = 9
Timing / Seating Rating = 9 Food Rating = 9 Service Rating = 9
Premium restaurant located on the boardwalk -- Excellent food and service for a small premium charge -- Highly recommended
The Dog House Overall Rating = 9
Timing / Seating Rating = 9 Food Rating = 9 Service Rating = 9
Complimentary food located on the boardwalk -- Excellent if you like a variety of hot dogs -- great for a quick snack or small lunch -- Highly Recommended
Johnny Rockets Overall Rating = 8
Timing / Seating Rating = 8 Food Rating = 8 Service Rating = 8
Premium food restaurant -- Great Milk Shakes and Burgers - great for a quick snack or small lunch -- Highly Recommended
Cafe Promenade Overall Rating = 7
Timing / Seating Rating = 7 Food Rating = 7 Service Rating = 7
Everything from sandwiches to cookies to hot scones - great for a quick snack or small lunch and great area to people watch
Sorrento's Pizza Overall Rating = 8
Timing / Seating Rating = 8 Food Rating = 9 Service Rating = 8
Serves Variety of Pizza all day long -- and can order your own personal for no charge
Windjammer Buffett Overall Rating = 7
Timing / Seating Rating = 6 Food Rating = 6 Service Rating = 8
The windjammer was a big disappointment on the Allure compared to the Jewel of the seas. It seemed to me that every day was the same food -- just a different location with very little additions. The seating was extremely bad and over all I was not impressed with anything but the wait staff. Joe and Jirl was absolutely fantastic wait staff and should be commended on their work ethic.
Unlike the Tampa Port the Ft Lauderdale port worked a little different. In Tampa we departed the ship -- checked in at customs -- found our luggage -- found a porter then out to the Car. In Ft Lauderdale it was opposite -- You departed the ship -- waited in a line to get to your luggage -- Find your luggage -- Find a Porter then all of you including your Porter with your Heavy Luggage wait in line to clear customs! Now that was the most bazar thing I ever seen -- I felt sorry for this poor guy holding our entire luggage for nearly 30 minutes. Crazy! Indeed.
Although the Allure was Big and Beautiful I will have to go with the old adage "Bigger isn't always better" the food was of low end quality -- the ship even with all her amenities was Overwhelming and cramped for space. Hallways and stairs always seemed to be blocked whether it was for dinner -- or formal dining and picture taking. The stair ways always seemed to be blocked and appeared confusion when trying to get around the ship. I am not implying the Allure is a bad ship at all -- Again she is a very beautiful Ship. However, I think the increased passengers and limited work force does more hurt than good not to mention there always seem to be some confusion on where to go unless you found a Kiosk. I honestly think that if RCCL would have more staff to accommodate the passengers it would have been less confusing
As for the mandatory lifeboat drill just before sailing, the stairs were jammed leading to the muster stations and came to a standstill for several minutes. I couldn't help wondering what it would be like in case of a real emergency. This was also the first cruise where we didn't muster in an open deck area. You gather in large rooms throughout the ship depending on the code on your Sea Pass -- theatre, dining rooms, etc. Our muster station was a dining room where you just milled about or grabbed a seat at a table, or stood if you couldn't do that. Pretty disorganized, almost like a RCCL did a Cover your **** evacuation drill, just so it's documented. There was absolutely no order in this room and all the RCCL employees did nothing to intervene to keep the noise level down.
In Closing if you don't mind spending vacation with 5,300 other people and standing in lines I suppose the Allure is the ship for you -- However I definitely feel that the Radiance Class Ship such as the Jewel of the seas is more acceptable and easier to maintain especially in the service and quality area with 2,500 passengers. The radiance class ships may not be as big as the Oasis class -- but overall I suppose both have their negative and positive points.
I promised my wife that I would try an all-inclusive vacation next year so I can compare -- but it doesn't mean I won't sail with RCCL -- I really enjoyed the weather and the ports we visited --
It just seems for me and my wife the ship was just a bit overwhelming.