Let's begin with some history. This was our 7th cruise; 6 with RCI and 1 with Celebrity. We were travelling with a group of 8 (4 couples). The ages were ranging from 45-62. All couples have some cruising experience.
The excitement began 2½ yrs ago when we all decided to book a b2b cruise on the Allure of the Seas for Apr 7-21, 2013. The time frame allowed us to plan this cruise in great detail. The excitement and anticipation grew in intensity as we approached our sail date. The anxiety level elevated as the months and days edged closer to Apr 7/13. Our long awaited journey did not disappoint. It was worth all the time and effort we put forth getting ready for our amazing cruise on the amazing Allure of the Seas. Kudos goes out to our travel agent, who was very instrumental with his assistance. A big Thank You.
I will break down our experience in sections to make it easier to comprehend what this ship has to offer.
EMBARKATION: Terminal 18 at the Ft. Lauderdale Cruise Port is where you will embark. Arrived at 10:55AM, handed over our luggage to a porter (who by the way will place luggage tags on your luggage if you haven't already) and proceeded inside to the many available check in counters. Set Sail pass and Credit Card turned in and your Sea Pass is given to you here. Proceed to the next stage where your boarding photograph is taken (face recognition) then up the escalator to your waiting area. You will begin to board when your group is called. We entered the ship at 11:25AM.
Time spent was a whole 30 min from curb to ship, quick, easy & efficient.
FIRST FEW HOURS: From the moment you step on to the Royal Promenade till you get into your room (around 1PM) you and the hundred of others will be agape. The beauty and vastness of this ship will leave you awestruck. You will be invited to have lunch at the Windjammer Market. I suggest you do proceed at this time to grab a bite to eat. We chose to visit the Park Cafe on Deck 8 for their famous roast-beef sandwich and made to order salad. The best tasting salad I've ever had. The ingredients are incredible. This will be an opportune time to book any reservations you have not done so already: eg. Spa, dining, entertainment, wine pkg, beverage pkg and of course any excursions before they all book up. Proceed to your Dining Room and check your dining table for satisfaction, if any queries the Maitre'd will be there to assist. Now you can explore the ship.
THE SHIP: Humongous, a monster, bold, beautiful, evolutionary, fun, eloquent are just some of the expletives that comes to mind. You won't find another like this one unless you sail the Oasis of the Seas, a true marvel in engineering. It is simply well laid out with many options and activities to do. You will not fall short of finding something to do to keep yourself content and busy. One may ask about the ease or difficulty of finding your way around. RCI has made this issue a non-issue. Color -coded areas indicate sections of the ship (aft, forward, port or starboard), smart screens located at pivotal points will guide you around (electronic navigating). All restaurant activity will also be shown on the screen, so you can see how busy each one is, aiding you on your choice. I stress DO NOT FEEL INTIMINATED by its' size or the 6000+ guests on board. We never felt crowded or had to wait in any long lines including the elevators. Sure at peak times (gangway when returning on board, right after the Amber Theatre empties) and that's just a maybe. Throughout your week on the ship you will be asking yourself"where are all the people? This is an indicator how well the ship is designed. It was impeccably clean and lustrous the whole time we were on our B2B.
THE NEIGHBORHOODS: Seven areas in all for all ages to enjoy and partake.
Central Park - Consuming Deck 8, resembling NY's Central Park lined with plants, flowers, trees, benches, restaurants, beverage bars and stores, a real treat to stroll and listen to the birds singing and music playing and relax with your partner sipping a glass of wine or beverage of your choice under the open air. This is a well-manicured and often used area day and night by fellow cruisers.
Entertainment Place - Forward on the ship on Deck 4, you have the Comedy Club, Studio B (ice rink), Casino Royal, Jazz on 4, Blaze, and the awesome Amber Theatre ideally located for your enjoyment, try to visit all at least once, you will not regret it. NOTE: I advise you to reserve your seat on line or immediately upon boarding for all the shows the offer reservations namely Blue Planet, Ocean Aria, Comedy Show, Headliner show. It's an array of entertainment styles of your choice that you will surely enjoy and will please everyone.
Pool /Sports Area - On top on Deck 15 a favorite especially during sea days. There is always a seat to be found around the Beach Pool, the Sports Pool, the Main Pool, the Kids Pool (H2O Zone) or the adults only Solarium Pool. Mega 4, the pool band will play the tunes that you have become to enjoy in the Caribbean all the while you soak up the sun. If you crave the Hot Tub scene, you've come to the right place. Enjoy the numerous ones available including the 2 cantilevers that overhang the sides of the ship (starboard and port). NOTE: Towels are available by presenting your Sea Pass at the Towel station. Just remember to return your towels at the station and have your Sea Pass swiped again by the attendant showing returned to avoid being charged $25 ea towel. How about climbing one of the two Rock Climbing Walls and ring the bell on top while viewing the ocean and horizon from this elevation. Try your luck on the 2 flow riders (boogie/surf). Build up your nerve and glide across the boardwalk on the Zip line for 10 sec. All require you to sign a waiver and remember the Zip line (no hats, no glasses, require laced up shoes) you don't need to drop anything below onto a fellow cruiser. Golf simulator (putting) is a nice way to spend an afternoon hour having fun. Who said white men can't jump? They were there on the basketball court shooting hoops. Tournaments and leisure is available on these courts.
Royal Promenade - Located on Deck 5 loaded with shops and kiosks, as well as the ever-important Guest Services. Find your fellow cruisers strolling along with bags of goodies that they purchased from one of the shops, perhaps holding a Starbuck's beverage (for fee), I know, I was one of them. We spent quite a bit of our time here enjoying an average tasting slice from Sorrento's (made to order or off the rack) washing in down with a pint from the Bow and Stern (English style pub) offering a good selection of ales and lagers. You can always pick up coffee, tea, hot chocolate or a glass of cold water along with a mini sandwich, cookies or pastry all day and night at the Cafe Promenade which is always open and complimentary. How about a photo of you and your family besides the 1934 replica Mercedes located right beside the Rising Tides Bar. This bar has set times as it rises from Deck 5 to Deck 8 and repeats from Deck 8 to Deck 5. I think it was pretty cool to have a drink and start flying high only after one. Check your Cruise Compass for the days and time for the not to be missed DreamWorks Parade, flash mob dance, and bring back the memories of your Disco days during the 70's Disco Party/Parade. Simply all events taking place here were spectacular and well orchestrated. Guest Services offers great service with a very adequate number of courteous, knowledgeable, always-pleasant smiling representatives forever waiting to offer help.
Boardwalk - A family atmosphere to be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Some cruisers being upset at RCI for charging a fee for popcorn, cotton candy, ice cream from the parlor, we never felt a need to indulge in these snacks but seen families enjoying the candy etc while we accompanied them riding the Carousel. Brings back the kid in you. Drop in to the Candy Store and purchase any of the every imaginable candy you can think of and also find Pinwheels (kids toy/game) store here. If you pass by around 8:30PM on a night when Rita has her Mexican Fiesta going on you will definitely know by the loud party atmosphere she brings along with the Sombreros and dancing. Although we did not attend this Fiesta (check your cruise compass for the days) you pay $20/person, this includes 3 large very tasty margaritas or $10/person for non-alcoholic drinks and some Mexican fare. There is an a-la-carte menu for a fee. A nice addition you will find on the Boardwalk will be the Dog House, a complimentary choice of 6 different styles of wiener on a bun with sauted onions, sauerkraut and a small cup of potato salad. Our favorite was the CONEY ISLAND. Always nice to stop by and have a dog in the afternoon. If you continue in the direction towards the aft along the Boardwalk, Johnny Rockets with it's red and chrome decor will be inviting to try a thick tasty milkshake along with a burger, fries and onion rings, all for a small fee for lunch or dinner. Breakfast here is complimentary. Continue aft and you will see the fantastic Aqua Theatre, an out door venue that's home to the Ocean Aria Production as well as some other events (sexy legs, belly flop, meet the senior staff, DreamWorks sail away party, outdoor movies 2 large screens).
Youth & Teen - We did not travel with kids, so can't comment. RCI is known to have the best Youth/Teen program available. So if you're wandering about taking your children (age does not matter) please do so, your children will have a blast. The areas that we saw were very impressive. Place your child in the appropriate age program and you can enjoy your adult activities while your child will be enjoying themselves with others in their age group apart from you. Gives you both some well deserved down time apart.
SERVICE: This is where RCI excels. All crew that we encountered wore a smile and greeted you with courtesy. Never did you get the impression that they were unsatisfied or unhappy. It didn't matter what their responsibility was, cheerfulness and respect was always present. I want to take this time to commend the entire staff on their professionalism, knowledge and disposition - a true reflection on the senior staff members beginning with Capt Tommy Nyseter etal. The Allure has a very happy and pleasant crew.
FOOD: In general the food in all areas was just simply OK. RCI is not known for its' food as their forte and it certainly showed on this cruise. Our biggest disappointment was the food in the Dining Room. Basil night and the second formal night were the worst. Choose these 2 nights to attend a specialty restaurant if in your plans. It was not just my wife and I who felt this way, our entire group of eight concurred. Royal Caribbean has to fix this, it's unfortunate they have recently changed the entire menu fleet wide with mediocre results. We really enjoy the "Dining Room Experience". Every element about the "Dining Room Experience" is met with high marks except the quality, taste and selection of the food. Our tolerance of mediocre food will expire soon if this problem is not rectified. I want to mention that Ronald and Manoj (Western Itinerary) and Helen and Catalin (Eastern Itinerary) did a fantastic job keeping us well served and engaging with us in some very pleasant conversation. The only for fee restaurant we visited was once at Giovanni's Table for diner. For a fee of $25/person we ate well with plenty of any item you order on the well-stacked menu. The wine list is premium as compared to the Dining Room. I really enjoyed the wine here. However, I must say that the food served here at Giovanni's Table was what the Dining Room used to have and should still be serving instead of using lower quality ingredients and poorer selections like they do now. It's sad that they have chosen to lower the standard of food in the Dining Room. We can't comment on the other for fee restaurants, as we did not attend. The rest of the food venues were basic and standard for what they represent and serve. In my opinion, none of the complimentary food venues qualify as an alternative to the dining room for dinner. The one bright spot and was an obvious great hit among all cruisers during our 2 weeks is the Park Cafe, inclusive in the cruise price where you can find the best made to order salad and roast beef sandwich I've ever tasted (had one of these every day). There are other great tasting items on the menu, but those 2 stand out. We stayed away from The Windjammer Market, I think we had 3 meals there during the 2 weeks on board. The Wipe Out Cafe served up some great tasting tacos, nachos, burgers, fries, pizza and some kind of a wiener in a bun plus water and very sweet lemonade. This was a nice alternative for a quick snack/bite to eat.
CLEANLINESS/APPEARANCE: Spic & Span, sparkling, gleaming, spotless to say the least was synonymous throughout the ship. A remarkable feat achieved considering its' size and vastness along with the sheer number of staterooms and public rooms. Our stateroom was upheld to the highest standards that can be asked for. I still maintain that RCI has the best looking ships (interior & exterior) on the high seas. Kudos to all crew responsible.
ENTERTAINMENT: This is RCI forte, shows and productions beyond imagination. Ken Rush (cruise director week 1) was world class and really enhanced the cruise. Every show, parade and production must be attended. DON'T MISS ANY. Can you imagine that most people will never get to see a production or entertainment show like on the Allure ever and we have seen 5 top-notch, first rate in one week. That's a WOW. Get to all shows at least 30 min prior to start to ensure a good seat. You will see Chicago (3x), Blue Planet (2x), Mos5ic (2x) playing in the outstanding Amber Theater with its' impeccable sound and lighting system and very comfortable seating. We were fortunate to have a change in the Comedy Act, Headliner Show and cruise director during our 2nd week. 2 new comedians, Beatle Maniacs and cruise director Alan Brooks matched the brilliant performances during week 1. Ensure to book your reserved seats ahead of time (on-line or immediately upon boarding). Comedians, there are 2 for each show every day twice a day in the 92 seat Comedy Club. Again I stress to reserve your seats as this show is always at capacity. They will have you LOL in stitches. A visual masterpiece of high diving, trampoline acts, water acrobats along with some comedy is the solid production show Ocean Aria performed in the Aqua Theater. This, is also a reservation show, you know what to do. If you don't have reservations you will have to wait in line and you will bet let in 10 min prior to show time if there are seats still remaining, this applies to all shows with reservations.
Plan to attend the Dream Works parade (check your Compass) it happens twice per week. Come early a get a seat in front of Sorrento's or directly across right by the staircase in front of the Bow & Stern Pub (the preferred seat) as this is where all the characters will stop and perform in front of you. A great treat for you and your family.
As far as the entertainment in the bars, we only went to Dazzles, where we enjoyed the music of The Front Liners , a Philippine group covered a wide spectrum of musical genre. Maybe that's why we enjoyed it and never bothered to visit other bars. In my opinion, Dazzles is the best of the clubs/bars on the Allure to stop by for refreshments and listen to music. Now that is not to say that jazz in Jazz on 4 or some hot salsa/latin beat in smoke filled Bolero's, piano music in the Schooner Bar or the Duo in the Viking Crown Lounge, plus the DJ in Blaze should not be visited particularly if you yearn for that select music. All in all the entertainment value and quality on board is just phenomenal and diverse that is second to none. The BEST ENTERTAINMENT at sea.
SHOPS: Quality clothing and high end merchandise (jewelry/perfumes) as well as the usual tees, souvenirs, liquor, cigs can be found on Deck 5 Royal Promenade, don't forget the Britto Gallery and the Coach store on Deck 8 Central Park. The weekly 50% or higher sale occurs towards the end of week, check your cruise compass for sales.
PORTS of CALL:
Labadee - Our favorite, new pier built so no more tendering. Really changed since we last were here. Cabanas for rent, more local shops, but only in certain areas and the locals must stay within their confines. Pick a beach area; there area few, find a tree and tip one of the beach crew and they will set you up with loungers. The longest Zip-Line is here for you to try. Spent a nice quiet day just relaxing and in and out of the water consuming the best cocktail they make, the LABADOOZI.
Falmouth - The new pier is finished and many shops are located right there as you get off the ship. No need to go any further. We did the Chukka River Tubing Safari excursion. Life jackets on they tie up all the tubes in your group and the guide will pull/tug you along the very quiet lazy Martha Brae river. About 1hr 15min is spent in the water.
Cozumel - A busy port 5 ships were in. Although they have shops right at the pier, most people cab it to San Miguel. We did the Dolphin Encounter Excursion. Very well organized and located at the Chankanaab Park. It was worth doing this. You touch, pet and kiss the dolphin as it swims right in front of you.
Nassau - Not our favorite port, but we did get off and walked around downtown. Very few shops open. They open 9:30 - 10 AM. So back to the ship we went. It was a short stop anyways. At port with the Allure were Disney Dream, Carnival Fascination and Nieuw Amsterdam.
St Thomas - Allure docks at Crown Bay. Not a busy day as the only other ship was the NCL Epic. We booked a trip on the Kon Tiki. Nice ride around the bay then spent an hour on a nice beach and the retuned to the ship sipping some rum and doing some Caribbean dancing. Crown Bay has some shops at the pier.
St Marteen - Our second favorite next to Labadee. We spent almost the entire day on Front and Back Streets popping in and out of the shops. Hoisting a few cold ones for $1.50 ea. We headed back to the ship with a couple of hours to spare before departure, giving us time for a nap.
DISEMBARKATION You may choose to walk off with all your luggage, at 6:30 AM avoiding having to put your luggage out in the hall on Sat night therefore not having to retrieve in the terminal and get off real early otherwise you will tag your luggage with the provided tags (room steward will deliver early Sat evening) and place outside your room. Departure day, you wait in your designated public room until your luggage number is called. Retrieving your luggage is very quick and easy to find. And off you go. Very smooth and well organized.
CONCLUSION/SUMMARY An amazing cruise, I highly recommend this ship. It's obvious that it is family oriented. We had spectacular warm, rain free weather the entire 2 weeks. Do not let its' size or the number of guests intimidate. This ship has everything imaginable to offer. We did see all ages on our cruise from infants to elderly in the 80's. So go ahead and book a cruise on the Amazing Allure of the Seas
We rate this cruise AA. The only reason we didn't give it AAA+ was the food in the Dining Room was disappointing. We find it mind boggling how RCI can have such a very high quality standard in all other areas except the dining room food.