We usually travel on Celebrity or RC for the itinerary, and not the ship. The Western Caribbean is the least of my favorite. But as I had heard so much about the Allure, I decided to surprise my daughter, Larissa (who just graduated from high school) on a mother-daughter cruise for the purpose of bonding with my child before she leaves for college this fall.
Day 1 - Port Everglade is located in Fort Lauderdale (4.75 miles from Hilton Beach Hotel on 1A) - Embark
Took cab to port. Agreed on $25.00 set fee plus $5 tip. Arrived at 10:30am. Dropped 2 luggages with porter, paid him tip, then proceeded to RC Terminal (world's largest). Repeat guests had priority lines and were seated accordingly. Boarded the ship at 11:30am.
As staterooms are not ready until 1pm, rather than go to Windjammer buffet, we headed directly to book shows. We got Chicago, Comedy Club (must see - I saw it 3 times), Blue Planet & Water Show.
Then we went to the Dining room to arrange a large seating table that would have mix of 18 years and up. We were very fortunate to find a group with ages, 12, 18, 20, 33, and up with table of 11 with 4 families. This was the best table that we have ever had in the past 28 years of cruising.
Around 1pm, we dropped our backpack and went up to have lunch. The ship left the port around 5pm.
Day 2 - At Sea - Formal night - We had breakfast at Johnny Rocket. This is free for breakfast. Still getting oriented, attended show etc..
Day 3 - Labadee, Haiti - RC Island. The weather was perfect. You can walk or take tram to go from one area to another. There are vendors within the island that you can purchase craft. We were just there to snorkel and suntan. One area is for sun tanning and snorkeling (where zip lining is located). The beach is rocky. On the other side (directly across from where the ship is docked) has sandy powdery beach with gentle water. We moved there. No matter which part you decide, you will be served BBQ lunch with drinks.
Day 4 - Falmouth, Jamaica - We never wonder into any port of Jamaica. This is a new port which is far away from many of the attractions. We only ventured out to a new port shopping center which is very upscaled with diamond, and other reputable stores that the RC recommends, mixed with typical T-shirts and other stores. There was also a section where the crafts were actually made, and the vendors never approached us unless we asked questions. But if you decide to go out of the port shopping area, you are putting yourself at risk.
We had a family who went on a catamaran/snorkel trip in Falmouth. From the boat, they heard 3 gunshot sounds. Then they saw ten policemen chasing a man on the beach from the boat. We later found out that a man shot a cab driver 3 times in the head to steal the gold neck chains. From that point on, I took all my jewelry off.
Rita Cantina - One of our friends from our table invited my daughter and I to join them at Rita Cantina for Dinner. He told me that it was $20/pp with 3 margaritas. I declined because my daughter and I could not handle 6 drinks. Then he called me back and said for $10.00, my daughter could get dinner with non-alcoholic drinks. So we went. The food was not good. I would have done better going to the dining room.
Day 5 - Sea - Formal Night - Zip Lining - We both did. Ride is very short.
Day 6 - Sea - My daughter did flow rider and rock climbing. I wanted to try the flow rider, but I bowed out when there was no one over 40 years old standing in line.
Day 7 - Cozumel - Chunkkanab Park. I wanted to bring my daughter back here because she was only 2 years old when we last visited this park.
You can choose to go to Playa Del Carmen from the ship to reach the mainland. But the 45-minute small boat ride is very rocky, and many of you may get very sick. If you are a history buff, and want to go to Tulum, you have no choice. For snorkeling, the Cozumel park is much better than Xel-Ha or X-Caret. They are all man-made, and over-crowed with tourists, the water is murky with very few fishes. If you want to see the sea turtle at the Akumal, it also may not be worth your money. You may see a turtle or two at a distance in murky water when you go with tourists. All require environmental friendly sunblock such as Burts Bee at these places.
Cozumel Chunkkanab Park is only 3 miles away from the International Port. It costs $11.50 to get to the Park by cab. Since we shared cab with friends (2), it came out to $3.50/pp including tip. You can google the Park and print out a $2 coupon per person. If you bring your own snorkel, you will pay $21/pp - $2 coupon = $19. Life jacket is complementary and required. They have shows throughout the day. Water is crystal clear, with steps, and floats with #s to show you where the fishes are. The first time I got in the water, I did not wear life jacket, and almost drowned because I panicked when I saw a jellyfish coming straight to my face. But as our friend was nearby, he rescued me. From that point on, we spent 3 more hours at the Park with our life vests on. We took 96 underwater shots taken by the photographers. They wanted $45.00 for the CD, but we bought it for $25.00. They have bathrooms, lifeguards, and restaurants with servers to bring you drinks at a very affordable price. My daughter commented that the Park charges less for bottle water than Spirit Air (we will never use again).
Our friends went back earlier than us. So we came back on our own for $11.00. But the driver took a detour, and dropped us off elsewhere, without speaking, looking very nervous, and motioned us to get out of the cab. We thought there was a problem with the car. After we paid him, including a tip, we realized that the cab (#181) driver dropped us off 1 block away from the terminal to avoid traffic, so that he can get to his next tourist. We complained to the taxi company and to the Allure guest services but they were of no help.
Day 8 - Disembark - $25.00 cab ride back to Hilton Beach Hotel
- Allure has plenty to do to fit everyone's need. Only 2 incidents happened in Cozumel - lessons learned.
- As age group activities range from age 2-17 years, I was bit concerned that my 18yr old daughter would not meet anyone on the cruise. But on the contrary, they had special activities for 18+ group to a point, where our mother-daughter bonding experience took a back seat.
- Food in the dining room was average. The seafood was especially disappointing. The shrimp cocktail was never chilled but warm, and all seafood had aged fishy odors. But I gave 5 stars our waiter because he worked so hard to please us, and the food quality is not his fault. We also gave 5 Stars to our stateroom worker as he always made sure that we had ice in our bin day and night and kept the room clean.
- Gratuity was automatically charged $12.00/pp/day. I made them take it off, as did our friends from the same table because it should be given to whom I feel deserves the tip, and not how the ship wishes to divide it. I found out that the distribution of the tips were given to people that we never see, and in my mind should be a salary that the ship should be paying directly. Thus, I paid $3.50/pp/day=$7 (for 2 people)/day = $50.00 to our Stateroom worker, and the same to our Waiter, and $2.00/pp/day=$4 (for 2 people)/day = $30.00 to assistant waiter.
Now that I have been on largest cruise ship in the world, I'm ready to cruise to places that I really love. My next cruise will depart from Harwich, England this fall. I will report then.