Argh, I hate writing this review because it means that I'm home and not on the Allure. My husband, myself, and four of my closest friends had an amazing time!
I'm 38, my husband is 42, and our friends range from 35-40. Three of us live in Tampa, and the other three live in GA.
We flew from Tampa to FLL on Southwest without a hitch and arrived around 9am. Please note we did receive the "don't arrive at port until after 1230pm due to sequesters" email but we had this flight booked many months before the email came out. We arrived at the FLL airport around 9:15 am and immediately jumped a cab for the port. The cab ride was about $20 for three of us with 4 large suitcases. Note: initially I booked the bus from RCCL to take us from the airport to the cruise terminal but that was $20 each and I read some pretty lousy reviews so we cancelled that and just hopped a cab.
We arrived at the port at about 9:40, gave our bags to the porters and went to get in line. They hadn't even opened the doors to let into the cruise terminal yet so we were first in line. Within about a minute of arriving they did open the doors and we were instructed to wait just inside the doors. They told us the lines would open at 10am. The man that opened the doors was great, there was a small group of 15 or so people and he kept trying to pump us up. He told us the first thing we should do when we got on board is to head for the roast beef sandwich at the Park Cafe (this was our plan anyway but he was still funny). He also explained that there were a lot of international travelers on the last sailing so they were working like mad to get them cleared through customs so we could get on the ship.
At 10AM we went through security, checked in, got our PI sticker (this is the Premium Beverage Package sticker they put on your card), took our welcome aboard photo, and shuffled upstairs to wait to board. We are Emerald C&A members, each loyalty level had their own waiting area and you sit in the order you arrive. We had a lovely usher and she pulled us aside to give us a tip when we got on board, anyone care to guess what it was? YEP, Roast Beef sandwiches in the Park Cafe! I'd say way waited there about an hour (long enough to gloat on Facebook and to call home and check on the family) and they started calling guests to board. First back to back cruisers, suite guests, and then down the level of tiers for the loyalty program. My guess is we were about the 75th people to board the ship.
As we got on board I was in awe. She truly is marvelous! We boarded right at Sorrento's, took a right to the elevators, hit the button to deck 8 and went straight to the Park Cafe. There were maybe 4 or 5 people already in line, we waited, ordered our sandwiches and chips, and had a seat outside. My husband also went to the bar next door to get his first drink! The sandwiches are all they are cracked up to be. As we sat there the line got longer and longer and by the time we were done the line must have been 30 people deep. They move it very quickly and its definitely worth the wait.
After a bite to eat we took an elevator to the top of the ship and started working our way down. The flow riders are amazing, really neat, there were already people using those, I figure that must have been a first stop for some of the kids. The ship really is amazing, there are so many activities packed into 7 days that you just can't fit everything into one vacation. We walked around the pool decks and were awed at the kids pool area, theres a current pool that spins them in a circle (think washing machine), and a lot of structures that spray water and have streams for the kids to play in. I thought that the pool area was a little small for the size of the ship but you also have the solarium area with a half circle pool and hot tubs so I guess that's ok. As it turns out, we spent so much of our time doing activities that I didn't spend one second at a pool the whole cruise...more about that later.
We walked each deck and made it all the way down to deck 5 before we ran into our other group and called it quits. We found them in the Bow and Stern (which I continually called the Pig and Whistle because that's what it was on the Voyager 10 years ago) and had a few cocktails. I'll take this opportunity to mention the premium beverage package we purchased. Did I get my monies worth ($55/day)? No. Was it worth it anyway? Absolutely. I'm picking with drinks, I don't like them strong, and I don't like a lot of pineapple. I also wanted to try different things that I normally wouldn't at $7 a drink. One of the girls in our group was drinking a long island iced tea and it was great, my husband ordered one and it was HORRIBLE. We told the waiter, he had it remade for us, it was still a little rough but there was no pressure to drink it. We just ordered a different drink and it was great. Another time I ordered a drink, it was horrible, super strong, and I just left it at the table. I would most definitely order this package again.....on to the rest of the review!
We had cabin 9595 which was a Central Park View room. I loved this room, it was super quiet, right over Giovanni's table, and I loved the window seat. Our friends had an inside cabin (9673) and a balcony cabin (9596? directly across the hall so I don't know what the exact number was). We used dry erase boards to keep in touch with everyone and that worked out great.
Food: We had table 416 and loved Andy, Supryiadi (sp) our wait staff and Ethel from bar service. I'd give the food a solid B, we ate in the dining room all but the last evening. We had lunch at Giovanni's table (A), Johnny Rockets (B), and the Windjammer (B), breakfast at Johnny Rockets (A), the Windjammer (B-), and the Wipeout Cafe (B). None of the food was bad, some of it was just ok but you have to remember your feeding 6k people....it was outstanding if you take this into consideration. All the venues for free food were good, we hit the hot dog place a couple of times, the Park Cafe for salads and roast beef sandwiches etc. Our biggest disappointment came in the form of Rita's Cantina. We saved this for the last day because we wanted a little party atmosphere on the last day. The food was mediocre at best....everything I read told me this but we wanted to try it for ourselves, we aren't that picky. Well its everything you read.....lousy service, lousy drinks, and lousy food. Skip it, I wish we did.
Nassau: We did the Bahamas Segway and Beach Experience. What a great trip! I would highly recommend this. Aaron from Oregon and his wife own this business and he personally picked us up at the ship, drove us out to the area for the tour (note, they do stop and pick up from two other hotels, the ride is about 30 minutes) he gives a full commentary on the island, shows great places to stop and visit for a bite to eat etc. and answers any questions you may have. The tour was given by Meeks and was about $65pp. She was awesome, showed you everything to do and NOT TO DO on the Segway, and really made you feel comfortable before getting on. The area toured was all wilderness and beach front, there was a beach stop where you could sit in chairs or go in the water, bottle water was provided, there was even an area on the beach where you could take home a conch shell that the fishermen had left behind. Please note, you cannot bring the shell back on the boat so just leave them for the guests who are staying at the hotel. We learned that the hard way.
St. Thomas: We did Godfrey's tour. It was only $25pp so we really can't complain, I don't think I'd do it again because I was terrified of the steep curvy roads while it was raining but if that doesn't bother you, have at it! We stopped at the top of the mountain and got the famous banana daiquiri....REALLY STRONG....get the virgin or tell the guy to go light on the rum! The stops along the tour were good but it was raining so it did lessen the experience a little. They let you do an hour of shopping before the tour and we really didn't need it. Unless you are looking for jewelry or liquor it really didn't pay to do the shopping.
St. Maarten: Half the group did Capt. Bob's tour, which they loved, and the other half did Maho Beach. I can't speak to Capt Bobs tour but those that did it loved it. I did Maho beach and it was neat, we took a taxi out, about 15+ minutes, watched a bunch of little planes come in, and then the big one came, REALLY NEAT, after that we packed back up and took a taxi back to the ship. We did rent deck chairs at Maho for $10/per chair, after we paid we decided to move to different chairs closer to the middle of the beach, we found that the chairs we moved to were broken so make sure you check the chairs before you pay for them.
Shows: I love Broadway and production shows so I was very excited and booked all of our entertainment the day it opened. Our first night was Chicago, LOVED IT. I love the show anyway, knew the songs so of course I loved it. Comedy Show, Great! Ocean Aria.....ehhhh...yes the diving and the strong men were great but the "show" part was weak, the female dancers were horrible. The men in our group didn't care for it at all. Blue Planet....horrible. There were one or two parts that were good, everything else was bad bad bad. I know all shows are subjective but we heard a lot of the same comment from others as they were leaving. This was the casts first time doing the show (they change casts twice a year I heard) but it wasn't the casts fault, the show was just horrible. My husband saw the Madagascar Aqua show and he said it was the best show they had. We caught about two minutes of the Ice Games show and decided not to go back for our reservation time, it just wasn't our thing either.
Activities on Board: We did almost every trivia game on board (progressive, name that celebrity, etc). We did the Quest (props to Phillip for being the driving force of Team 5), Battle of the Sexes, Belly Flop contest, Sexiest Man Contest, Love and Marriage, Flip Video Scavenger Hunt etc. There is always something to do....if you want to do it.
Things to note: we utilized the secret balconies on deck 11 A LOT. This "secret" is out but most aren't taking advantage of it. There were never more than three people anytime I went. In hindsight I wouldn't participate in so many activities, the cruise wasn't as relaxing. The ship never felt packed except when we got out of the muster drill. We never had a problem finding an elevator.
As the cruise came to an end we were all anxious to get home to the kids but we were sad to leave. There was so much we didn't get a chance to do, you just can't do it all. We ended up making three separate "future cruise bookings" because we know we'll use them. We had #3 luggage tags which lets you off between 720-745. We headed to breakfast at 700 at Adagio on the third floor, had a buffet breakfast, they called our tags and we were off the ship within minutes. We found our luggage quickly, zipped through customs, grabbed a cab to FLL and were back at the airport by 8AM. Our flight wasn't until noon so we had quite a wait but we wanted to make sure we had enough time to not have to rush.
All in all it was an amazing trip and I'm ready to go back. We'll go again in April of next year, after we figure out the FCAT schedule and we'll take the kids. It will be a totally different cruise with kids but it's something I want to see through their eyes too.