I was on Allure of the Seas from 9/22 - 9/29. It was a great adventure, even though I was traveling alone. A travel agent got me a great rate on a balcony stateroom. No single supplement! So I jumped at the chance and booked. First, getting 5,000 - 6,000 passengers on board would seem like an overwhelming task. But Terminal 18, built especially for Alllure and her sister ship, Oasis of the Seas, is huge and well staffed. It took me only twenty minutes to get from curbside to the Rising Tide bar for a Bloody Mary! Disembarking was equally as efficient.
At first, the size of the ship was overwhelming, but it was easy to find one's way around because of the interactive maps posted near the elevators. At first, I could never feel any movement and thought the Allure was more like an island than a ship. However, I later found out that it the ship's beam is so large that Allure just doesn't move. It's rated as being able to withstand not only 65 foot waves but also a Category 5 hurricane! Only when approaching or leaving a dock could I feel a slight vibration, which were the bow thrusters being employed. Talk about smooth sailing! Both of my "at first" reservations were dispelled within just a few hours.
I had one snag on the first night. For some reason, there was no assigned dining room on my Sea Pass card. The situation took the staff twenty minutes to seat me and I was sent to three different decks. I was annoyed, but was comped a cocktail, so I settled down. The next day, my dining room assignment arrived by email and there weren't any further glitches. Although the service was outstanding and the food was very good in the main dining room, I bought a discounted package for $70, marked down from $90, which covered the extra fees for three specialty restaurants...Giovanni's Table, Chops Grille and 150 Central Park. The food and service in each was delightful, and I'm a pretty particular guy.
The ports of call on this cruise were mediocre at best, although if I were younger, I might find the deep sea diving and snorkeling excursions fun. I took no shore excursions as they are hugely overpriced. I stayed on the ship at Labadee because I'd been there before. There were warnings not to go far from the dock in Falmouth, Jamaica, because of overly aggressive local vendors (but one doesn't have to face them if one is going on a RCI shore excursion. Royal Caribbean built a dock area with many shops, steel bands, bars and restaurants. Many people stayed within those confines. I was disappointed to find a Dairy Queen there. Who comes to Jamaica for Dairy Queen. I was also rather disappointed that RCI didn't build a restaurant there that served authentic jerk chicken and other Jamaican dishes. There is one of the ubiquitous Margaritavilles there, but those seem very much like tourist traps. In Cozumel, I researched authentic Mexican restaurants and hired my own cab for a quick tour of the city of San Miguel with a drop-off at the restaurant of my choice, Casa Mission. It was a fine place...friendly staff, attentive service and delicious food. And there was no "gouging the Gringo"! I had a fine Bloody Mary, a huge portion of fresh shrimp ceviche and a wonderful chile rellenos, all for about $26.00.
The shows I saw were just okay, but I have a background in theater directing, so I'm picky. "Chicago" had terrific dancing, but the leads were weak. The show at the AquaTheater was interesting. "Ice Games", in Studio B, was poor...more gimmickry than artistry (Three skaters fell on their rear ends during the performance). I used to be a figure skating judge and the level of difficulty of the jumps accomplished (or not completed) didn't rise above double turn jumps. There was a long number featuring a female skater with what seemed like 10,000 hula hoops that didn't have much to do with figure skating. I missed Blue Planet, but other passengers told me that it was like the Aqua show, only on land and with singing.
Things I loved: the international, friendly staff; the food in the specialty restaurants, having breakfast on my balcony (and a nightcap there, too, with a million stars to watch), my horticultural tour of Central Park, one of the seven "neighborhoods" on Allure, the fantastic friendly and helpful croupiers in the Casino, room service punctuality and the generous cocktails.
Things I didn't like so much: having to circumnavigate the bed in what seemed to me to be a rather small balcony cabin, the lack of any shaded benches to sit on while walking from the ship to Labadee and Cozumel (I have severe emphysema and have to stop and rest often), and the high prices of drinks, excursions, etc., etc., etc. I have a negative opinion of "formal nights". I believe they are simply an "adult prom" excuse to make money off of tuxedo rentals and photographs, (speaking of photographs, cameras weren't allowed at the dolphin encounter in Cozumel and a photographer tried to charge some newly weds $80 for the picture of them he took. They declined.) Although I won a couple of hundred bucks at Blackjack, the odds at the gaming tables tilted even more than usual toward the house (but then again, we were captives, weren't we?).
Even though I'm picky, I still had a blast!