The trip, from the top. We were in Ft. Lauderdale a day early having driven over from our home in Okeechobee, FL. When we arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, it was past noon, so we went over to the shopping center off 17th and had lunch at Duffy's Sports Grill. A nice place to visit, as we don't have one in Okeechobee. For the night, we stayed at a little place in Ft. Lauderdale Beach called the Harbor Beach Inn, across from the beach. After we checked in to this really pretty little boutique hotel (that was spotlessly clean, freshly painted, and the room was really a suite with a little kitchen space) we walked down the street a ways to the beach access and walked to the breakwater where the ship channel hits the beach. We sat there on the rocks in the failing light and watched the Saturday departures, including Oasis just before it got dark. Then we walked in the sand, all the way back to the hotel. A nice evening.
Sunday we went over to Lesters Diner, on 84 for breakfast (a favorite place for me) and then drove around a bit. We hit the Park and Go at the cruise port at 9:45 and took the shuttle to the dock. Park and Go is generally about half the cost of parking at the pier, and the guys there load and unload the bags for you, and took just two couples in their little bus, up to the door of the departure gate.
The wait to get in was very short. We generally walked straight to the counter, after the short security check, where they never bothered to check the bottle of wine I had in my backpack. We got our Sea Passes, and filled out the paperwork, and then we sent upstairs to the waiting area. As we are Gold level members, we had to wait a little while to get on-board, but maybe only 30 minutes or so, but we did get on well before the first time cruisers, and because we had arrived early, we were about the 5th couple in line when the 'golds' got on-board.
After we got on board, we stopped and had a bite to eat, and then I camped out at the Schooner Bar for a little while and looked down at the folks on the Promenade a level below. That perch, along the railing of the Schooner Bar became a favorite of mine as the week progressed, especially in the afternoons. Our regular evening spot became a seat next to the window in the Viking Crown Lounge.
The cabin was available right at 1pm, and we took the elevator up to 12 to find our new digs, and get unpacked. The room was arranged with the bed next to the balcony door, which is the arrangement we enjoy.
At 2:30 that first afternoon we had an 'informal' meet and greet at the Wipe Out bar, on deck 16 clear aft. I told the folks what I looked like, and would be wearing, and went up and waited. About a dozen folks came around to meet me, and to greet each other and tell stories for an hour or so. It was a lot of fun.
As for the cruise itself, we left on time, and arrived at Nassau, on time on Monday morning. Because of the on-going trouble with a bearing in an azipod, we were scheduled to leave Nassau at 12:30pm. I didn't even bother to leave the ship, but my wife did go to the straw market and poke around a bit. I was walking laps on deck 5, when the crew got involved in a safety drill. They dropped all the odd numbered life boats from the starboard side of the ship, and motored around in the harbor a little bit. When they went to recover the boats, they parted a cable (the captain called it a 'wire') and couldn't lift one of the boats back on-board. That delayed our departure for more than 3 hours. We finally left the boat at Nassau and sailed towards St. Thomas at 3:30 or so well behind schedule.
The next day was a sea day, and we were limping along at a reduced cruising speed, into a 28 knot wind from the SE, right on our nose. I have found the Allure to MOVE quite a bit when underway. I think it's so tall and slab sided that the wind has a LOT of impact on the ship. The ship ALWAYS was rolling about 2-3 degrees, and was very slow to recover, seemed to be a bit top heavy, and I would NOT want to be on it in rough conditions. Neither my wife or I are bothered with motion sickness, but I can see how someone who has that trouble would have a lot of issues with Allure. Finally, on the last day of the trip, headed back to Florida, the wind finally dropped off to nearly zero, and the rolling stopped.
Because of the late departure from Nassau, and the conditions, we didn't hit the pier in St. Thomas until 2:30 in the afternoon. I had reserved a tour with Godfrey there, and expected that I wouldn't get to go, but when we got on the pier, there he was, holding a sign with that big smile of his. So we took a kind of abbreviated tour around St. Thomas, with just a few minutes to shop, and a nice ride around, that ended in the pitch dark. The stay at St. Thomas was VERY short with a 6:30 all aboard time. After we got on-board, an announcement was made that everyone on the ship was going to received a $200 (per cabin) credit, due to the short stay. Do the math, this must of cost Royal Caribbean a small fortune. We were on time to St. Maarten and enjoyed our day there. We started out taking the water taxi into town from the pier. My lovely wife had decided to buy me a new wedding ring as I had worn out the last one over the years, and we got it in St. Maarten at Milano. After we picked it out, we found a cab driver, and took a two and a half hour private tour of the island, and then walked down to the Green House at the end of the boardwalk and had some lunch (excellent fish tacos) and a couple beers. Then we walked back to the jewelery store and picked up the ring. From there, we caught the water taxi back to the pier, and made a stop at the Duty Free store for a couple bottles of good rum.
The next two days were sea days, where we really got to explore the ship and try some different places to eat. We never entered the main dining room, except one morning for breakfast. We tried breakfast at Johnny Rockets, at the Wipe out Cafe, and at the Solarium Cafe and the Windjammer. Then, we would have a late lunch somewhere and just skip the dining room. We had late lunches at Johnny Rockets, Vintages (twice) the Park Diner, the Wind Jammer, the Dog House, and on shore at St. Maarten at Green House. We also got to see ALL the shows that were available on the ship. I really enjoyed all of them, and especially liked Chicago and Blue Planet and did enjoy the ice show as well. On the last night we sat in the Schooner Bar at the railing and looked down at the big character parade on the Promanade. It was fun. I think I have taken about 400 photos of the trip with my new DSLR, and need to find the time to go through them all with my computer and post a few on my facebook page.
I have to say I was really impressed by "Captain Johnny" who was known to ride a small motorcycle around on deck from time to time, and held a 'question and answer' show the last day we were out there. He was the most visible of all of the captains I have ever seen on a cruise ship, and was treated on board like a rock star. He was very approachable and very funny and quick to tell a joke and shake a hand or take a photo with someone.
The worst part of the whole trip was trying to get off the darn thing. Well, actually we decided to do a express departure, and left the cabin at about 6:40 in the morning with our three big bags and my backpack. We caught the elevator down to five, and exited through the Amber theater to the outside deck, and then down the gangway. At the bottom of the gangway, we headed to customs/immigration area and were there about 7am. There are 10 positions there, I counted them. And we had THREE customs officers there. At 7:15, with 5000 people waiting, they all got up and took a little BREAK!!!!!! I stood there, just short of the gate, and watched them all get up and walk into a back room, and we just stood there, while they took a little time off for a cup of coffee?????? 5000 of us waited while customs took a break!!!!! I have NEVER been so pissed off in my whole life. Then, after they came back, we got to the booth, handed the guy our customs form and passports, he checked our faces against the photos, and waved us through without another word. I really wanted to ask him, "Hey jackwagon, how was your little coffee break?" But good sense prevailed and I kept my mouth shut and headed to the park and go.
I LOVE the Park and Go! We walked over to the little bus and the driver loaded our bags for us, we sat down, and with just the two of us on-board, he closed the door and got moving. He called in the car, and they got it freed up, and when we got to the car, I opened the trunk and he loaded the bags. We got in the car, and drove around to the exit, where the girl at the window checked my receipt and handed me two little bottles of ice cold water, wished us a happy trip and we were on the way. I drove around a little bit getting our bearings, and eventually found ourselves on 84. So we stopped at Lesters Diner again, and had breakfast and then drove home.
I have to admit that the folks at Royal Caribbean really know how to treat you well. The ship is mostly spotless and clean, the people working are friendly and there is ALWAYS something to do. We live in South Florida, so the pool deck is not really a place we hang out, but at times it seemed like every seat up there was taken, and everyone did seem to be having a good time. I did have occasion to run in to a couple of folks that wanted to only complain about every little thing, but my feeling is that life is too darn short to be miserable all the time???