We had a group of 9 on the May 5th cruise of the Allure of the Seas to the western Caribbean. Overall we had a great cruise and were impressed with the Allure. It is a beautiful new ship, spotless, with more things to do and see than you have time for. However it was also crowded at certain times and at the end of our week we were glad to get away from the other 6,000 passengers.
BEFORE YOU CRUISE -- Make sure you book all your entertainment and excursions online - I recommend booking entertainment as soon as it opens which is about 2 months prior.
EMBARK -- We drove to Port Everglades from our Florida home -- we parked in the large open lot next to the ship, very convenient and worth the $15/day. RCCL E-mailed us the day before and said to arrive at 12:30 for boarding due to the cutbacks in customs which would delay the prior passengers' departure. So we arrived at 12:30 and the boarding was slow but steady and we were onboard by 1 PM. Some of our relatives arrived earlier and were held in a lounge until the same time. The ship was already crowded when we got onboard. We went direct to Park Cafe for salads and sandwiches and had a line which moved smoothly but tables were hard to find. I think the Windjammer cafeteria was also full. We found the elevators to be crowded and slow going all week. Rooms were ready by 2 PM, luggage arrived by 4 PM.
SHIP -- In spite of the crowds at peak times and places, the ship was definitely a "WOW" -- most beautiful ship we'd seen in 14 cruises. After the cruise my wife said it felt like being at Disneyworld for a week -- both the good and bad. There is so much to do and so many places to go that I can't begin to mention - but be prepared for crowds and lines.
ROOM -- We had a Boardwalk balcony room on the 11th floor (#11323) and liked it. It was great to see folks below on the boardwalk as well as see out the back of the ship and also see most of the water show theater. Rooms are very quiet and the only time we had noise was when the aqua show went to midnight. Very comfortable king bed but it was a smaller room and the closet was awkward to use as the doors were right next to the bed. Our room steward was efficient and pleasant.
SHOWS -- There are 6 major shows -- Chicago, Ocean Aria, Comedy, Headliner, Blue Planet, and Ice Skating. All are very good and the prime time shows were packed, thus the need to make advanced reservations. They open up the seating at 10 mins prior to fill up the few empty seats. We really liked Blue Planet and the Comedy Show. Chicago was good but ran 90 mins which can be sleep-inducing after a busy day in the sun.
LABADEE -- Fortunately we had sunny weather all week as the 3 stops (Labadee, Jamaica, and Cozumel) involved outdoor and water activities. Labadee is a giant beach area with lots of water activities -- also we docked so no tenders. I went on the Dragon's Breath zip line -- Â½ mile long over the water. It was outstanding and well worth the cost. Great view of the island and ship. It was a very comfortable ride, not scary as it might seem. I carried a hand-held camera to video my ride. Took about 50 mins from start of the excursion until we came down the line. Rest of the time we hung out at the beach. Two of our group took the Boat Snorkeling excursion and liked it.
JAMAICA -- Ship docked at Falmouth which has a large pier and a large shopping area next to the ship. We stayed on the ship as we'd visited Jamaica many times. The ship was fantastic that day with only about 1,000 people onboard. I rode the ship zip line 4 times and did the rock climbing wall and flowrider. Our relatives went to Dunns River Falls, Beach Snorkel, and Bobsled Ride and enjoyed them.
COZUMEL -- Our favorite stop on this cruise. We booked the ship's Scuba Diving excursion which was "OK". There were 10 divers and the boat was small so it was crowded. Also the two dive spots were where hurricane damage had scattered the reef. I recommend for better diving you see if a private dive tour will take you to dive along the wall -- we dove there several years ago and the reef is fantastic since it's deeper. Other folks did Snorkeling and Snuba excursions and had a good time. We had plenty of time in the afternoon to go into town for Mexican food and shopping. All 3 stops on this cruise were at piers and we did not have any long lines departing or getting back on the ship.
FOOD -- We had pre-planned early dining (6 PM) all nights except one. I would recommend the pre-planned option as there were long lines for anytime dining around 6 PM. If you eat later, the lines are probably shorter. We enjoyed the dining room - the food was good and you can order several entrees, also we liked having the same waiter staff every night. The other night we ate at Giovanni's Table which is the Italian pay restaurant, $20 -- it was fantastic but takes almost 3 hours due to all the courses and slow pace. For breakfast we ate in all the different locations although the Wipeout Cafe was our favorite as it wasn't crowded and had a buffet line plus omelets. We seldom went to the Windjammer due to crowds unless it was a port day -- the Windjammer had many good selections, you just have to watch your timing as it's too small for a ship that large.
SODA -- Several in our group bought the soda packages for $52. There are coke mix/match machines in 3 places -- Windjammer, Wipeout Cafe, and Sorrentos -- that use the refill glass. You can also get sodas at any bar or dinner by showing the sticker on your room card. Only drawback is the machines were used so much they were frequently out of ice and mixture. Still a nice feature though.
DISEMBARKATION -- Unfortunately this was the worst departure we've experienced and it wasn't RCCL's fault. This was Mother's Day so I guess many customs folks stayed home or were on furlough. We were an hour late leaving the ship than expected -- 10 AM vice 9 AM. It took us 1 hour once we left the ship to get our luggage and go thru customs & immigration. Turns out only 5 stations were open with the other 5 closed. When we left the pier at 11:30 there were folks still streaming off the ship. Bottom line is don't book an early flight unless you plan to do the early walk-off departure at 6:30 AM.