We are very experienced cruisers and as Royal Caribbean Diamond Plus members obviously very partial to Royal Caribbean.We cruise every 6 to 8 months. I still thought I had some things to add about our trip that might be helpful.
For this cruise we traveled with daughter and son in law who were first time cruisers with their two daughters 4 and 6. We don't usually pay attention to children's activities so we had a good opportunity to look at that side of things.
I have been on Disney so I thought a comparison of the pros and cons would be of use. The family cabins on Disney definitely offer a more comfortable option but for a significantly higher price. The family were in an ocean balcony for four but felt it was manageable. The Disney playrooms are spectacular and unbeatable but for a 4 and 6 year who have never experienced anything different, Allure's amenities were more than good enough and I feel the options and entertainment for adults are much better on Royal.
The kids loved the children's program, the parents found the staff fantastic and the kids never complained of having to go. The special ice show, water show and parades with the DreamWorks characters were a big hit as was the Carousel which got ridden very frequently. Frequent appearances by characters around the ship with photo opportunities were also a big hit.
We ate in the main dining room every night as we usually do. What I get in the MDR experience is live music, a beautiful setting, an abundance of choices and service that is matchless with crew members who quickly learn your preferences and have food waiting on the table for the children as soon as they arrive. The specialty restaurants can have excellent food but the dining experience is not much different than eating at a restaurant at home so I don't usually see the point of spending the extra money. We do eat at 150 Central Park one night as the food and service is outstanding and it makes for a special event. We enjoyed our evening there enormously.
Cruise ship food on Royal is always good, though not great. I can always find things I like. Soups and appetizers are outstanding with a great variety. I am always happy with the food but don't go expecting an ultimate fine dining experience. We found many dishes we all enjoyed and nothing got sent back.
In my mind nothing competes with the entertainment on RCI in general and the innovative venues on Oasis class ships are spectacular. The unique configuration of the later generation ships with the Royal Promenade, the ice rink and on Allure and Oasis, the Aqua Theater give entertainment options not available on any other cruise line. We are particular fans of the Jazz on 4 venue (which somehow doesn't get much mention on cruise critic. The Aqua Show, the Ice show and the Broadway production of Chicago were all sensational fun. I am amazed when people sniff at the quality. We are from Manhattan, avid theater goers but can still appreciate the live music, high production values, costumes, lighting and excellent direction offered on the ship.
For this cruise something new to us was concerts in the park with a rotating cast of musicians from the main orchestra performing in the Central Park area outside in the evening in small groups of 2 to 5. Even in August we had lovely weather with nice breezes and sitting in that spectacular architectural space listening to a jazz horn was pure bliss.
The main artwork, arching over Central Park is spectacular with beautiful changing lights in designed Lexan globes. Just beautiful.
I found the Allure to be more attractive and better decorated than the Oasis. Something I always loved about the RCI ships was the art and design and starting with the Freedom class ships, significant budget cutbacks were apparent. The earlier RCI ships are much more lavish in their use of art, interior design and materials (marble, glass, bronze, stainless steel). Allure seems to be a notch above. We have sailed on Liberty, Freedom and Oasis and Allure seems more beautifully done to me with more original art again.
Overall we had, as usual a fantastic trip and can't wait to go again-Legend of the Seas in March 2014!