I was the group leader of a small group of 15 passengers all over 55. Embarkation was amazing and faster and more efficient than other cruise lines 1/3 the size of the Allure.
Arriving onboard, the cabin was very clean and comfortable. We were immediately greeted by Raj our cabin steward who was friendly and gave a lot of attention to detail throughout our voyage.
Since our group was older and wanted to stay together, I had made arrangements with the group sales department several weeks prior to the departure date so that our group could attend the shows together and be coordinated with their early seating dining preference.
Dining seating was perfect and the dining staff for tables 169 and 170 was excellent.
However, the communication between the home office group sales department and the on board guest relations was non existent when it came to the show bookings. This meant spending un necessary time and receiving a lot of miss information on getting show reservations for my group. Since a number of my older passengers are not computer saavy, it is up to me and the good communication of the home office and onboard staff to communicate well and follow through on the communication.
As it turned out, our cabin steward Raj and his housekeeping supervisor saved the day and communicated with the powers that be and made sure we had reservations. So I must say we had a cabin steward that went way above and beyond his job description to help us in a way that guest services onboard and off board could not. Thanks Raj!!!
The Cruise Director Ken was entertaining but seemed a little stuck on himself and a few comments were unnecessary especially at a time when we were still trying to work out the communication and the shows. The first night after we missed half of the show (due to miss communication) at Ocean Aira, Ken, the cruise Director said the typical "Is everyone having a good time." Then he went on to say if anyone was unhappy, he suggested when we got to the first port of Nassau we stay there and not get back on the ship! Considering this is an experienced Cruise Director and it is his job to bring good times to his paying passengers, the comment was not exactly appropriate and several passengers not with me made comments about that as well.
As for the ship. It is truly an engineering marvel. There are endless activities. Zip lining, rock climbing, build a pet, mini golf, flow riding, and even a ride on a carousel are just a few of the many things to do. For my older less physically active group, the main event was the shows (which is why those reservations was so important). There are plenty less expensive cruises with good entertainment. The reason we were willing to pay the extra fare for this ship was Broadway style entertainment. "Chicago" was absolutely better than Broadway itself. The performers were top notch, full orchestra (no pipped in music), live and true to script. Definitely worth the price of admission (once we managed to get reservations).
The rest of the shows were equally amazing. Although we did not see Ocean Aira in it's entirety, what we did see was fabulous. Earl Turned was performing and if you love old Motown, you do not want to miss his show. I would have gone back for an encore had we not had the rest of the shows to see. Earl Turner rocked the house and sang at a level that rivaled the original performers of the music. I bought the CD and he stayed for photos and hugs. He is a must see!!! Another good show was a comedy act of two different comedians. Although on other cruises the comedy act is put on the back burner for other activities, these comedians had us entertained and laughing from the moment they walked on stage to the final punch line. Blue planet was also a great show with a lot of visual and stage effects and wonderful choreography, We also saw Ice Games. It was a good show with talented performers, but of all the shows this was my least favorite. The ice shows on other RCI shows I felt was better, but that could just be my preference.
Our group met in Schooners Bar for cocktails before dinner. Each evening the bar server knew us by name and knew what each of us were drinking. How he could remember this considering the number of possible passengers he served all wee I found amazing. Very excellent customer service, Schooners every night 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. We enjoyed the trivia games the first couple of nights as well, but the last night we ran into a little rudeness from a person maned Celia (not sure of spelling), from Mexico. Since it was the last night I needed to speak with my group on debarkation procedures and since RCI was offering reduced deposits for future cruises (and the future cruise sales dept happened to be right next to Schooners) it was a good time for me to encourage my passengers to book their future cruise. Except that Celia told me to not talk while she was trying to get everyone to play a trivia game. She was quite rude about it and it was more important for the group to enjoy their cocktails and get info on their future cruise as well as debarkation that having to talk over her trivia game that no one wanted to play.
Aside from a little improvement needed is the customer service area, the rest was above and beyond.
The photo gallery was fabulous. Not only were the photos a cut above in quality; they were also all organized for each passenger in a numerical folio, so no one had to hunt down their photo as on other ships. Other cruise lines need to take a lesson from the Allure regarding the photo gallery! I am sure they sold more photos this way and I bought more because they were easy to find and well organized.
Perhaps my favorite day time activity is the spa, and there were no disappointments on the Allure. Very accommodating staff. We got a tour and treatment appointments, and excellent service, without being pushed to buy products. The thermal suites were clean and lovely. I also loved the design and the relaxation of the ship's solarium.
The ports of call were Nassau, St Thomas and St Maarten. We have cruised numerous times so although we did not need shore excursions, we purchased them in St Thomas and St Maarten. Very organized and accommodating shore excursion department. We even managed to exchange one for a later time with no problem whatsoever. We had an especially great tour guide Troy Benjamin on the St Thomas tour and all passengers were very pleased.
The entire dining staff was wonderful! Considering that we switched our tables within the group, both our waiter and assistant waiter knew each of our names, and what our drink and even coffee and tea preferences were. The food throughout the ship was excellent including the main dining room. On may cruises food can be inferior in the main dining room to encourage specialty dining at a surcharge. On the Allure the food and service was better in the main dining room than the special dining rooms of other ships and cruise lines. Although the Windjammer Cafe buffet was often crowded, again the staff was very helpful. They greeted passengers at the entrance and found them a table which is a service not often found on other ships. I also enjoyed the power drinks and sandwiches for lunch at the spa which is a nice light lunch option after a spa treatment. There is also great complimentary lunch in the Park Cafe in Central Park with a build your own salad option. I cannot remember the restaurant area but on the deck where the sports area is called wave runner (not positive of the name) there are amazing made to order omelets and good breakfast choices.
I love the dancing entertainment after the shows. The band in Dazzles and the same band for the 50's dance in the Aqua Theater was wonderful. I cannot remember the name of the band but they were amazing and offered dancing with music from the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's to current. Because of their popularity, I only wish there was a larger dance floor and bigger seating capacity.
The future cruise department was very accommodating and took time with everyone that were pre booking their future cruise. I encourage this because of the offering of reduced deposits, additional onboard credits, and a way for group members that are enjoying a cruise to think about the next one. We booked our next cruise and selected our cabin in not more than 10 minutes.
A little comment about shopping. I think the shopping was more limited than other ships which I found odd since the ship is so much larger with 6,000 passengers. Only one fine jewelry store with very limited options, and only a few gift shops. That being said they had specific days and time where they offered faux Pandora charms (would have preferred real Pandora charms that are offered on other smaller ships). Two or three days of cheap watches, hats, scarves etc: but these areas with limited times were extremely crowded and flea market sale style. Can you imagine thousands of people crowded around a limited area all picking through tiny boxes of beads and charms? Had these items been available in the shops as well, a number of us would have bought more at the non sale price just to skip the pandamonia.
Debarkation was very smooth and orderly. Many staff members were lined up and wishing everyone farewell and a safe trip back home.
Overall, with the exception of a little tweaking of customer service, I would give five stars for the ship, the food, the entertainment and majority of the staff. Although a small few need a few reminders in people skills, the majority of the staff went above and beyond expectations.
I wish the Allure or it's sister ship the Oasis were able to sail to other ports of call and longer itineraries. If they did I would sail again on this ship class frequently. Our next cruise that we booked on the Allure will be on Celebrity Eclipse. Not because we did not love the Allure but because we would like a longer itinerary to some Ports of Call less frequently traveled.