We have been on five cruises, one with Celebrity (Solstice), one on carnival (Destiny), and three on RCI (Voyager, Mariner and the Allure). People cruise for various reasons, and this time we cruised specifically for the ship - Allure of the Seas. We were definitely not disappointed – rather, in most aspects the ship was truly a "wow" for us.
We boarded the ship in Fort Lauderdale. We were prepared that there would be masses of people, extremely long lines, and a lot of waiting. We were very surprised and pleased. When our shuttle arrived at the port and we were on the ship in about 30 minutes. RCI had a lot of personnel to handle the embarkation. We did bypass the photographers at the entrance which sped things up.
We had a superior ocean view state room with a balcony on deck 10, pretty much midship. It was a typical room on RCI but big enough for us since we do not spend a lot of time in the room. Many of the staterooms on the Oasis class ships have balconies or windows that overlook the Boardwalk or Central Park neighborhoods, but we preferred the direct ocean view. Our cabin stewardess was very friendly. She also was very prompt and thorough when cleaning our room (my wife is very adamant about cleanliness and she remarked several times how much she liked our cabin stewardess and her attention to detail). Like many stewards on RCI she left some fun towel animals, a bat, frog, elephant, etc. We had good vibes for this part of our cruise.
We had heard some discouraging comments about the large lines in the food venues so we were a little worried.
We ate our breakfast every day in the Solarium Bistro located in the front and near the top of the ship. The bistro is advertised as having somewhat healthier food than other venues. This was also one of our favorite places to hang out since the solarium is adults only. We did notice a few children during the breakfast and lunch at the bistro, but none in the solarium. The food at breakfast was pretty much the same every day: scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, cooked mushrooms, yogurt, fruits, breads, waffles, etc. We are not picky eaters so the food at breakfast was fine for us. We had heard from a few on the ship that the Windjammer was crowded at time. We never ate any meals at the windjammer so I cannot comment on the experience there.
We also ate most lunches at the Solarium Bistro. One of the reasons is that we wanted to stake out our lounge chairs in the Solarium, where we could sunbathe, read, and or go into one of the four hot tubs. It was also very easy to go down a few stairs to the Bistro, grab lunch and bring it back to the lounge chairs (there was also a convenient bar nearby!). They had a decent salad bar, salmon, healthy wraps, green beans, cooked squash, and other rather healthy items. If you want a larger variety menu, and/or burgers, fries, pizza, etc. the bistro is not the place for you. For us it was great ... but I can see where others might want a larger selection. The good thing in addition to the somewhat healthier venue is that the lines were not long at all. Many times we just walked up, grabbed a plate and got our food. We did not eat lunch in the dining room or the windjammer.
We had a 6pm dining time. The only time we had to wait in line was on the first night when everyone congregated around the dining room doors prior to opening at 6pm, and were waiting for waiters to show each set of guests to their tables. On the following days people knew where they sat so there were no lines to get in. One suggestion would be to wait a little on the first night to be seated to avoid the initial rush. There only two of us and we were seated with another couple. They were great! So much so that we traded email addresses and might possibly go on another cruise together down the line. We also sat next to a great family, mom and dad and a 13 and 8 year old. Our two tables were close and we ended up talking a lot to each other. I guess we were lucky. This might not be the case in future situations.
We thought the food in the dining room was very good to excellent...again...we are not picky eaters. It always amazes me how cruise ships can prepare thousands of meals, with such a variety, and maintain quality. Our waiter and assistant waiters were great! Very friendly, talked to us, kidded around some with us and the kids next to us .... just great guys. They were always prompt ... and on a few nights when we had to get to an early show the waiters got our food very quickly. It kind of became a standing joke that several of us ordered two or sometimes three appetizers and several deserts because it all looked good and we wanted to try several items. No problem They brought it all to us. A few times we order two different dinner items, and one time our friends did not like the dinner and ordered something different. No problem... they were brought right away. There were two formal nights. My wife wore a dress…and I a suit but no tie, but it was not required. We did not eat at any of the specialty restaurants so I cnnot comment on those. The food in the dining room was just fine for us. Our dining friends had purchased the liquor package, and their bar person had drinks on their table almost as soon as they say down (knowing what they wanted from the previous days).
Other eating venues:
We did have some pizza at the Sabarros on the promenade one night which was good. We also had some of the small h’ordeurve sized sandwiches and desserts at night at both of the (free) cafes on the promenade and central park. We did not eat at the hot dog place on the boardwalk, although our new dining friends (which we hung out with) did and they said it was good.
We had an entertainment engagement scheduled each night, OceanAria, Blue Planet, Chicago, Ice Show, Headliner Show and the Comedy Club. One thing to consider for future cruisers: make reservations on the web for these shows as early as you can. Although they are free, you still need to have a reservation for the time you want. The show and times are coded into your sea pass card when you board and are used as tickets to get into the show. Don’t wait until you are on the ship. Also be a little careful when scheduling if you have a scheduled dining time so you wont be rushed. If you do not arrive 10-15 minutes before your showtime, they do start letting other people go into the theatres that do not have reservations. The comedy club has the smallest venue and we did notice the longest line of non-reservationists waiting to get into this show.
We liked the Comics at the comedy club the best. Chicago was very good but not outstanding. We also liked the water show OceanAria located in the back of the ship. The diving and trampoline acts were really good. The headliner show was a good ABBA look alike group. Blue planet was similar to a Cirque Du Soleil show…beautiful sets and presentation. The show “Ice Games” was also very good and visually appealing. Over all… the entertainment was as good as or better than our other cruises.
Fitness Club and Spa:
We did not use the spa, although our new dining friends did have acupuncture and a few body treatments. They did like the acupuncture. However, they felt pressured to buy additional spa treatments after taking one of the special spa offers. There was a nice track on deck five, rarely crowded, and it took 2.4 loops to go one mile (which shows you how big this ship is). I was a little dissapointed in the location of the fitness equipment. On the voyager class there was a pretty nice view out the window while you were on the bikes or treadmills.... this was not the case on the Allure. The equipment was standard. We did not use the zip line or the surf rider...but it looked like people were having fun. There was no charge for the zip line or riding the merry go round...not sure about the surfing.
Just Walking Around:
We like to just walk around sometimes. This ship is great for that. It has a large Royal Promenade and Central Park was really nice. If we wanted a quite place we went to the track on deck 5. Several nights they had parties on the promenade, parties, parades, etc.
We were told that there were 34 places (bars) on this ship to get a drink. This of course includes all of the pool bars as well as the more established bars (Schooner, Viking, Jazz, etc). We hung out in a few and had fun...entertainment was pretty standard, small groups, jazz, rock, country, classical, etc. Our group started a pub crawl one day, but we only made it to three bars!
This ship had a lot of things to do. They had to have two pages for the cruise compass, one for the early part of the day and one for the evening. Pretty nice for sea days. There were a lot of things that we just didn’t have time to do.
We didn’t have young children with us but our dining group told us the kids loved the ship and the planned activities for the kids. I know that the ship had kind of a Prom Party Dance for the teenagers during the last day of the cruise....kind of nice. All in all we thought the ship was great...lots of things to do ... lots of places to go ...
I won’t go into the ports (Nassau, St Maarten, and St Thomas). You can look up reviews for these on many other places. HOWVER...I do want to mention this. The ship was delayed getting into St Thomas because of a life boat problem in Nassau. Obviously, people who had planned excursions were disrupted and upset. RCI not only reimbursed people for their excursions (which is a no brainer) but they gave every stateroom on the ship $200 cruise credit (if you had two people-$110/each) and $500 cruise credit to Junior Suites. Maybe other cruise lines would do the same...not sure. It did help to alleviate some of the distress people might have had and it was probably a good business decision showing that they try to take care of their guests.
This went pretty smooth for us. We chose to set our luggage out the night before and have the porters hauled it down and waiting for us in the port. We had the time and we knew from experience that elevators can be packed and slow in the morning and did not want the hassle. Even though there are 12 elevators in the front of the ship and 12 in the back, they can be crowded and slow. We relaxed in the solarium bistro, had breakfast, drank coffee and waited for our number to be called. It took us 30 to 40 minutes to get down to the terminal, but we quickly found our luggage (they had clearly marked overhead displays of our number and luggage location) and then headed to go through customs.
We would go on this ship again in a heartbeat.