This was my first time on Royal Caribbean, or any cruise line other than Disney. My assumption is if you're reading this, you've read other Allure of the Seas reviews. I'll attempt to quickly validate several things I read but wasn't sure if I believed. Yes, this ship is huge. Yes, it can get crowded, specifically before/after events where large amount of people congregate, like shows, dinner, parades, muster drill, embarkation and demarcation. That said, Royal can't do a better job getting people on board the ship, and off the ship. I never felt overwhelmed with people - you need to realize that there are 6,000 other people trying to do the same thing as you, be a little patient. Yes, the elevators can get packed but, there are stairs right by every elevator, so work off that second dessert. Sea days are more crowded than port days (duh) but not unbearable. There seemed to always be a place to 'get away' by yourself, I never had a problem finding a lounge chair, there was always (if not too many) things to do. Finally, yes, the roast beef sandwiches in Central Park are pretty darn good. You have the opportunity to be 'nickel and dimed' to death if you freely swipe your sea pass card. Fortunately, there are no surprises on what costs extra. Would I go on the Allure again? Yes. Is the Allure best for you or your family? Depends, the rest of this review will focus on the differences between two options for week-long family cruising RCI's Allure of the Seas, and the Disney Fantasy.
A little bit about my perspective, there were two families, 9 of us total in 3 rooms. 4 adults and 5 kids. Two boys @ 16, two girls @ 13 and one boy @ 4. The other family had never cruised before; everyone in my family had been on at least 2 other cruises. I'm not a foodie, but I like good food. Generally, we're an active, social bunch. This is tough because nothing below was bad (unless noted). It's the difference between an A+ and an A in some cases. While I declared a winner in each category, it wasn't necessarily cut and dry, and definitely one man/family's opinion.
Best Ship: Allure of the Seas. The Fantasy is a beautiful ship and has so much going for it (I prefer the exterior of Disney over any other cruise line), but the size difference gives the Allure an opportunity to add so many more things to do and places (neighborhoods) to go that the Fantasy just can't compete.
Best Service: Fantasy. On the Allure we had a great steward and dinner service. But the Fantasy (Disney) knows how to do service. The people on the Fantasy looked happy to be there and happier to help. Folks on RCI were friendly and helpful, just not as 'magical' as the Fantasy
Best Dining: Fantasy. The rotational dining concept is awesome. Three different places to eat rotated each night.
Best Food: Fantasy. This is tough, the food was nearly comparable. I think we (my wife and I) liked the Fantasy more because it was designed more for families, whereas RCI was trying to do a little more gourmet. The issue with gourmet, is you can do well in small batches, but it's tough to do it well in large. Most meals on RCI were very good, some were just OK, the steak in the dining room didn't look appetizing. I didn't have a bad meal on the Fantasy, I think because they didn't try to do too much, just enough to keep the adults happy and give the kids something fun to eat (Mickey shaped noodles and waffles, yum!). Small things too, the bread service on the Fantasy changed each night whereas we had 90% of the same bread night after night on Allure. On both ships, I always regretted when I strayed from the recommendation of the waiter/waitress, if you're on the fence, go with what they reco.
Best Kids Area: Fantasy. By far. No comparison. Would my 4 yo rather play in a larger than life 'Andy's Room' from Toy Story (one of several themed rooms) or hang out in a bland room with a slide in it? The bad part for us, is that he wanted nothing to do with the kids area on Allure as it wasn't like 'the other boat'.
Best Kids Water/Pool Area: Fantasy. This one is close. The Fantasy's entire pool area is really dedicated to kids whereas the Allure has ¼ of the top deck pool area dedicated to it. Many of the pieces of equipment were broken on the Allure as well (had plastic bags over them).
Best Pool Area: Allure. No contest. Because the kid's area was in one section, there were several others where little kids never wondered. No screaming. Less likely to swim in pee. The sports pool was my personal favorite; I met a lot of cool people playing volleyball there every afternoon. Shout out to the regulars (I named them by their home) Atlanta, Dayton, Lexington, Australia, Roll Tide, and of course, the blue-eyed tiger. I love having the big movie screen on the Fantasy, and I thought I'd miss it on the Allure, but I didn't at all.
Best Entertainment Facilities: Allure. The Aqua Theatre, Ice Skating Rink, Promenade, Pool Deck, Entertainment Place can't compare to what Disney offers. My wife and I kept commenting what would Disney do with an Aqua Theatre?
Best Entertainment: Fantasy. The Aqua Show on the Allure was very cool, everything else was good. The shows on the Fantasy were generally superior, maybe because we're familiar with the Disney shows and they have more to draw from? Some of the Allure shows I was confused what it was about. Blue Plant seemed like random songs sort of about earth pulled together with some acrobatics. Overall talent and tech on both was high quality, the comedians on Allure were better though your mileage may vary as they travel from ship to ship.
Best overall for teenagers: Allure. So many things to do and places to hide from your parents.
Best teen area and teen program: Fantasy. We toured the teen area and I wanted to hang out there. When looking at the teen programs on the two ships, Fantasy was slightly better, I mean, you could be in a zombie movie! The Allure took advantage of its assets well, dedicated time for teens to play volleyball, basketball, flow rider, etc
Best Towel Policy: Fantasy. I hate (I do mean hate) the towel policy on the Allure. We took out two and returned two and they said we still owed one. We had towels on our chairs for a few minutes that just disappear. Fortunately we worked the system so we didn't owe anything, but the Fantasy has warm towels available without having to swipe your ID card or worry about getting charged $25 because someone can't count to two.
Best Phones: Allure. This is tough, I had to pay for the iPhones (and there are limited quantities) make sure you get them as soon as you get on board, but they have a feature were I can track where the kids are (at any point, know that my teenage daughter is near the flow riders and not in some strangers room!) Likewise, the kids could find us whenever they needed to very easily without having to call, just check on the map and walk that way. Disney's free phones are nice too, but the feature rich iPhones take the win.
Best non-alcoholic drink policy: Fantasy. It's free! Get it whenever you want! You don't need to carry around a cup with a special chip in the bottom, or your show your sea pass to the bar. I don't drink pop, so I felt bad asking bartenders to get me water on the top deck every few hours (no self-serve free water near the pools). I didn't like the fact that I threw away so many paper cups on the Fantasy, but the convenience of not having to carry around the cup was huge.
Best Rooms: Fantasy. We had an interior room, which had a 'magic porthole'. It was super cool to see outside even in an interior room and visits by random Disney characters was always welcome. It was nice to have a bath for the 4 yo. The suitcases were able to slide under the bed without issue (not sure why all cruise lines don't do this). That allowed us to access the suitcases easily throughout the cruise. I was able to empty my suitcases and then lift up the bed and shove them under in Allure, definitely not as easy as on Disney. Both ships were new so the design/decor was great in both. Both had plenty of hangers and random closets and storage spaces. We had an outside view room (4 foot porthole) on the Allure that was nice.
Best Bed: Allure. Both were super comfortable. I actually preferred the pillows on the Allure a bit more substantive then than Fantasy pillows. The Allure had two large twin beds that came together as one bed, which became almost as big as King bed. Nobody wanted the not-so-comfortable couch or drop down bed from the ceiling (and they are uncomfortable on both the Fantasy and the Allure).
Best In-Room Entertainment: Fantasy. No comparison. One of our favorite things to do after a long day was to fall asleep watching one of our favorite Disney (or Pixar) movies. All those movies (and more) are available on demand (pause, skip, and rewind) for free. The Allure wanted to charge you for movies, I believe they were $5-$12, I'm not sure if you could pause/rewind as we didn't buy any. You would think that they could put some Dreamworks movies on demand - disappointed there.
Summary: If you count up the 'wins' above, the Fantasy won easily. If you were to ask me which ship I'd rather go on again, I'm not sure I could make up my mind as easily as the weight of each category varies by the individual. For example, I put more weight on the ship, pool (water volleyball), and bed than my wife who prefers food and making sure the kids are entertained. If Disney built the Allure, it would be an easy decision, or Royal could make some changes that would make it an easy decision. We were happy on both cruises and I imagine any family could be happy on either as well.