Background: My DH and I are both recently retired and enjoy cruise vacations for the cost, the entertainment, and my husband's favorite reason--he doesn't have to try to find a restaurant or entertainment venue in an unfamiliar location. We took Oasis on the western Caribbean in March this year, and enjoyed it so much we wanted to see how Allure on the Eastern Caribbean cruise compared to Oasis. We found that there are many more similarities than differences, but given how much we like these ships, that's a plus.
Travel to port/Hotel: We live in the south and have driven to Ft. Lauderdale in the past, but now find that flying is easier than the two day car ride. We drive to Atlanta and take a direct flight to Ft. Lauderdale so there are fewer worries about bags arriving when we do. On both our March and August trips, we stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn on 18th Street and were very happy with the hotel service and rooms. The hotel has a small restaurant with very good food that is reasonably priced for dinner. They also have a breakfast buffet but we chose to go across the street for a quick fast food breakfast. There is also a mall and restaurants across the street. We took the shuttle at 11:30 AM for $8pp and arrived at the port in about 10 minutes.
Embarkation: Although there were lots of passengers, there were also many RC agents providing service, so we were directed to an agent immediately and were quickly onboard the ship.
Ship: The Allure of the Seas is a beautiful ship and one cannot comprehend it all without seeing it. Many other reviewers have described the many things to see on the ship, but even after being on Oasis, Allure is amazing. The many areas of the ship allow the passengers to be spread out so the number of passengers is rarely obvious. Having been on Oasis before, we were very comfortable with the layout of the ship. My favorite place on the ship is Central Park--it cannot be imagined unless one can see the beautiful plants and greenery and hear the birds chirping. It is also a delightful way to go from one end of the ship to the other--without walking down a long seemingly endless stateroom corridor as is required on other ships.
Activities: There are many more activities on the ship than can be done on one cruise, and there are activities that would appeal to a variety of people. The Solarium (adult area) was a favorite spot of ours. My DH enjoyed the hot tubs and I liked reading in the comfy chairs. The food in the Solarium Bistro was excellent and it was never as crowded as the Windjammer--and this was especially the case on embarkation day. The Boardwalk was a fun place to be, especially for children, and the Aqua Theater is a great venue at the end of the Boardwalk.
Service: The service at every level was exemplary. The Captain was entertaining, and we saw this also on the Oasis. Both Captains are relatively young and seem to enjoy being front and center with the passengers which is a nice change from some other ships we've been on.
Port and Shore Excursions:
We chose not to go ashore at Nassau since we've been there a number of times and the time in port was only half day. We enjoyed the day on the ship, and were surprised at the number of other passengers that also stayed on the ship.
We took an Island tour in St. Thomas provided by the ship. The tour was well-done and reasonably priced. Since we had OBC and don't buy drink packages, we paid for the tour with our OBC. Since St. Thomas is a US territory, we took advantage of the opportunity to call our children and family members at home.
We've been to St. Martin many times and enjoy walking around the shops and visiting the "Yoda guy", so that's what we did again. We feel very safe in St. Martin and enjoyed the day.
Stateroom: We really like the stateroom in the front of the ship. These staterooms are great because they are like a box with only five cabins on each side of the hallway and only a few rows of cabins, so they are usually quiet because there are so few people going to these cabins and they are closed off by a door so that no one goes to this area unless they have a cabin there. We were on deck 8 on Allure and it was super--we could walk out of the cabin and go directly to Central Park! It was a short trip to the Park Cafe for coffee in the morning or for lunch or an afternoon snack. We also have a cabin in this same area on deck 9 on Oasis which was just down one flight of stairs to Central Park. We really liked deck 8, though, and would choose these cabins again.
Dining: We ate in the MDR every night and for lunch a couple of days. The food was good, although the lunch menu in was the same every day. The MDR did have a make your own salad and hot buffet line each day that was good. We did MTD and had the same wait staff each night, but one which was great. We made reservations for dinner each night based on show times which was helpful. The Park Cafe was good, but was busy at peak lunch and early dinner times.
Entertainment: All the shows were good. Making reservations for shows ahead of time was difficult since we booked the cruise only a couple of months before. We learned, though, that some show reservations are held so that reservations can be made once you are onboard. We went directly to the reservations desk once we were onboard (based on a Cruise Critic recommendation!) and made the final show reservation we had not made beforehand.
Disembarkation: We did the early walk off carrying our own luggage and we were off the ship by 6:15 AM. The trip to the airport was about 10 minutes.
Summary: Allure of the Seas is a great ship and we highly recommend it. There are so many areas for passengers and things are so well done by the ship that the number of passengers is rarely an issue.