Despite all the comprehensive reviews and advice I read prior to embarking on the Allure of the Seas, I have to admit I didn’t really fathom what it all meant. Perhaps this is a ship that must be experienced to understand. I hope my review will be of help to someone else excitedly waiting to get on board.
I am a 62-year old grandmother and aunt to two 17-year old teens. We have traveled extensively over the years (the boys have their own diamond card status on RCCL). I have cruised 25+ times on Oceania, Azamara, Princess, RCCL,Celebrity, Costa and Carnival.
Pre cruise Hotel
We stayed at the Cambria Suites in Dania Beach at a military rate. These rooms are well designed and comfortable for a family - it was almost like having a mini-apartment. On this trip, I was traveling with my seventeen-year old grandson and nephew, so finding a bit of privacy was key. The hotel picked us up quickly upon arrival at FLL and only charged $5 for the transfer to the cruise port the next morning.
This process was just as smooth as everyone reports. We arrived at about 11:30 and were onboard at noon. I will admit that my first impression was “uh-oh” this is a very crowded ship. However, that impression proved false and was primarily due to the fact that until 1:00pm, everyone was compacted into the public areas
I cannot lie – the HA loft suite was absolutely fantastic! Having a large bathroom to myself on a cruise was something I could only wish for – but here it was. The decor was very pretty (in fact everything about the loft suite area was very soothing). I used the sofa pull out since the beds in the loft could be separated for the boys. Our awesome attendant, Marva, added an egg crate since I had spinal surgery and it was just as comfortable as the regular beds. Originally, I had selected a CL2 cabin that looks aft over the sports deck. When the HA was released to the public, my TA transferred me to it and I was very glad he did. The balcony looking out to sea was so much better than listening to the nonstop dribbling of basketballs on the court. The balcony was perfectly positioned to allow a breeze but was never windy. I acknowledge that this cabin was not inexpensive, but after having experienced the difference of having the privacy and unique design, I wouldn’t want to do a family trip without one. I felt that the added priority was a very worthwhile perk on a ship of this size. I also appreciated the unfailing courtesy and assistance of our concierges. (If I could have managed it, I would have taken Marva and the espresso machine in the concierge lounge home with me!!)
The dining fare in the main dining room was perfectly acceptable. We had My Time dining and had made reservations for three nights in advance of sailing. We also ate at Johnny Rockets (because the boys love it) and Izumi. There isn’t time in one week to try all the dining opportunities on board. Had I been sailing with my husband, I certainly would have wanted to try some of the beautiful restaurants in the Central Park area. However, I did feel that the waiters in the concierge lounge appeared a rather joyless lot.
We attended the comedy show, ice show and I went to the Chicago production and enjoyed them all. Suite seating was a real perk even having premade reservations. Had I been able to pull myself away from the casino slots, I may have made it to the headliner and water show. But, again, there is so much to do it will take another trip to finish all the ship has to offer. The slots were new and able to be played at surprisingly low denominations. Most days I was able to leave a little bit ahead (and there was one day we just won’t talk about…..) I had a great time watching the “If you know it – Dance it” activity and the flash mob dance practices. I personally don’t attend the Quest, but I was somewhat surprised that my teens were allowed to participate in the adult version. They had a good time – and it certainly wasn’t any more risqué than the comedy show I conceded to take them to. I did think the “Sexy Man” contest was a bit overboard in terms of the overt physical contact between the judges and contestants. Thank goodness the judges had the good sense not to fondle the 12-year old boy who chose to participate. Maybe I’m just a prude – but it just all felt a bit creepy to me.
The boys did the surf lesson but didn’t get time to do the zipline. (I think the height actually made them a bit nervous) My grandson won a teen center rock wall climbing competition and sported his medal to dinner that night.
We were invited to a number of parties for suite and Crown and Anchor members. The boys laughed because it seemed like there was a new invitation every day. I did attend the champagne party held on the helicopter pad - it was fun to be in a unique space on the ship.
The boys always start their cruises at the teen center. This is where they first meet new friends to spend time with during the week. This time they didn’t seem to enjoy the scheduled teen activities quite as much as in the past – they said that the staff was a bit strict with rules and guidelines. The 2:00 AM curfew was strictly enforced which was fine by me. It is possible that they are simply outgrowing the teen area. But they met nice kids and had a wonderful time all week. They didn’t stop thanking me all the way home on the plane!
Labadee – I had contacted the concierge by email in advance of the trip to reserve a cabana. It was terrific, but Barefoot Beach is quite rocky as others have mentioned. Float mats were provided with the cabana and there were bottles of water already chilled and waiting. The golf cart shuttle was very nice and saved the walk to and from the ship.
Falmouth – we decided to stay in the port area and browse the shops for this port. The people in Margaritaville seemed to be having a good time and the person announcing the different contest activities was very upbeat. I chose to make a basket with a gentleman who had a booth in the center of the plaza – and I was very proud of my finished product. He was so expert and patient with my efforts.
Cozumel – Both boys want to swim with the sea turtles. I usually schedule private excursions but I could not beat the price of the ship tour. I was glad I chose it because there were only about 30 people on the tour in several vans. We first took the ferry from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen, then a van to Akumal. This turned out to be the highlight of the trip for the boys. Although the snorkeling was a little difficult for me (and my spine) I was glad I got to see the amazing creatures in their natural habitat. The boys stayed out the full hour – and were hungry and tired afterwards but with big smiles. My nephew went straight home to his dad and requested he immediately schedule another trip to Playa del Carmen!
Roll Call Activities
Thanks to Paul, our roll call cruise director, we had several fun events planned. On the first day, we met up at a bar prior to sail away to say hello. The next day was the Meet and Mingle (I felt that the set up of the room discouraged people from mingling around) The staff assisted with our pre planned gift exchange, but then everyone quickly left afterward. The slot pull and cabin crawl/poker run were really good fun!
One blip on the radar
The only item I could find that wasn’t very good to great involved our minibar. While no one in the cabin ever touch it (and it was fully stocked), we received daily charges which totaled several hundred dollars over the course of the cruise. I made my daily trip to the service desk and they were promptly removed. No one could figure it out – and I finally requested that it be emptied to avoid the issue. So as you can tell, I sure didn’t have much to complain about!
I think the suite perk of having your luggage transfer and flight checkin handled for you is absolutely brilliant!! I would probably even be willing to pay the $20 fee for non-suite passengers in the future.
My husband who previously had no interest in such a large ship now wants us to go on it together – so it looks like I will have another chance to try the dining and entertainment venues I missed! I anticipate the whole family will want to go as well.