Day 1: Embarkation - super easy. Arrived before noon. Security and check in was very easy. No lines then we were there. We learned they did not let anyone on until about 11:15 or so. We walked onto boat with our luggage. We travel pretty light with carry on luggage. The doors to the rooms were closed because rooms weren't totally ready until 1:00 p.m., but we went through to drop off our luggage and our room was actually ready. We had planned to just leave it outside the door, but our room attendant, Little, had already finished our room and I admit we did surprise him, but he and all the room attendants were very nice. After dropping off our luggage, we decided to explore a little.
Food: We purchased the Chef's Table package because we like to try out the various specialty restaurants. There are many specialty restaurants with surcharges and ala carte pricing. We had a chance to eat at a good number of them and we also ate at the Main Dining room and the Windjammer Cafe. We have had great experiences at specialty restaurants on Holland America, which last we
checked had a surcharge of $25 pp but the food is superb and I always book a reservation at the Pinnacle Grill on Holland America - the $25 is totally worth it.
Main Dining Room: We always choose the 8 o'clock seating because we like more time outside or lounging about and don't like to rush to the 6 p.m. seating. 6 p.m. is early for us and we found that most families with kids tend to choose the 6 o'clock seating. We ate there for breakfast twice (including the last day - disembarkation day). We had dinner there probably 3 or 4 times and we don't miss the lobster night - which is usually the 2nd formal night (I would check with the dining room when making your specialty restaurant reservations). We also had lunch here twice. We really enjoyed the main dining room. Since we booked late, we were put on the 3rd floor in the very back of the dining room, it wasn't the best spot but we had excellent service and also got to sit with a lovely couple from NJ. They were really fun and we enjoyed making friends with them. The wait staff took very good care of us and always brought extra things for us and we could order more than one of each thing if we wanted to. The food was very good in my opinion and for lobster night, the lobster was a good size and fresh. We also liked the steaks here better than at Chops. Lunch was ok, the service is so-so, but not bad. You don't get your dinner waiters, but the food is tasty and you can order off the menu or get the buffet option. Breakfast was pretty good too.
Chef's Table: (I think its about $70-75 pp, but I am not sure I paid around $125 for a package of three specialty restaurants - Chef's Table, Chops, and Central Park). This is an intimate dinner in the loft area of the concierge lounge. I think each night there is seating for about 20 people and you sit at this very
long table. Its a pretty elaborate tasting menu with wine pairings. The Chef comes and explains each dish and the sommelier describes each wine. This was fabulous. The food was fantastic and the wines were excellent. I think its a great deal. The service was very good of course. And you get a nice gift at the
end (I don't want to spoil that surprise for you). We did this for my birthday. They even brought out a birthday cake for me and we made some nice friends at dinner.
Chops Grill: (I think its about $35 pp - it was again part of my package) This was our least favorite dining experience overall. The menu was surprising limited and I was also surprised that their best steaks had an additional surcharge on top of the surcharge, which in my opinion was pretty high for a cruise ship. In Chicago, you can get a very good steak meal at some excellent steak houses for close to that pp without alcohol. Wine was not included in the price. So seeing more surcharges was shocking to me. We each ordered the NY strip steak and asked for it to be cooked medium and the steaks were cooked medium well (we honestly had better steak in the MDR and cooked to order). In retrospect, I wish I had said something, but we were really tired of being in this restaurant so I didn't want to make a spectacle of it. The sides were also so-so - I don't even really remember what we had because it was so unmemorable.
The atmosphere was ok on the inside. I wish I had asked to sit in the atrium part of the restaurant because it was facing into Central Park, which is beautiful at night. Besides the food being ok, the service was interesting. The server was very nice and attentive, but he really was pushing selling stuff, like wine, and things like cook books and wine aerators. I thought that was weird, annoying, and uncomfortable. I don't know if they were required to do that or maybe they get a bonus, but I don't think they should do that anymore. I feel like it adds insult to injury with the expensive surcharge. We won't eat here in the future, however, some people really love it and have had great experiences. In the end, its an average steak house - but you can judge for yourself.
Central Park 150: (I really don't remember this one - I think with our package the Chops Grill ended up being free - so I am guessing about a $40 surcharge). Beautiful restaurant with nice and different decor located in the Central Park part of the ship. Service is excellent and the food again is very high quality -
beautiful, unique and delicious. I suspect the menu changes and I can only say overall we enjoyed this restaurant and there were several courses (a tasting menu style of meal). The food was delicious and rich and we felt pretty full at the end. I really liked the understated and attentive service - the server
explained each dish, which was helpful and added to the experience.
Another kind of Park Cafe here in Central Park - I forget the name, but its another free place to get salads and bistro food - you can also get free water, ice tea, and fruit flavored drinks here. We did not really eat here. Although the food looked good - its small and can get really crowded which turned me off.
Wine bar: There is also a lovely wine bar in Central Park which serves tapas ala carte. We heard it was good, but we never had a chance to try it out.
Seafood Shack: Ala Carte pricing, but very reasonable. This restaurant was located on the boardwalk several stories below our room and I love seafood and wanted to try it. Decor is like a beach side seafood shack. Nice ambience and service was good as well. We went because I heard that they have King Crab legs. So we went for an afternoon stack. I ordered a 1/2 pound of king crab legs for about $15 - I like them hot. They were delicious and I couldn't believe the price. The other things we liked were the coconut shrimp (something like $3 or 4 for a decent amount of coconut shrimp maybe 6 or so big pieces!). We had a major miss with the calamari though - it could have just been a bad batch. It just did not taste fresh to us, so we told the server who wanted to replace it with whatever we wanted on the menu, but we were not hungry anymore, in any event he brought us shrimp cocktail. The shrimp cocktail was ok - they give you a lot and they were a good size, but again, I feel like they weren't very fresh in the sense that the shrimp should have had a nice crunch to it. The MDR on the contrary had very good pieces of shrimp for their shrimp cocktail. Overall, I would come back here for the crab legs. They do have a lunch party with lots of different seafood, but we decided to pass on it - its a good deal, so you may want to check it out.
Johnny Rockets: We had milk shakes and breakfast here. We did not get a chance to eat here because there are just too many choices. But it is a popular place and the surcharge is about $5 or $6 - years ago it was like $2 or 3 I think on other ships. The milk shakes were good and breakfast wasn't bad. They don't
charge for breakfast. This is a combination surcharge and ala carte restaurant.
Solarium Cafe: They have a surcharge for dinner at night, but we only ate here for lunch once which is free. They offer spa food and light healthy food. Its mostly buffet style and it can get busy during the day. They also have a couple of miso soup options. You pick the bowl with the ingredients already in it and
they add the miso. You can also get water, ice tea, and fruit flavored waters for free here. We liked the light fare - its a nice change.
Donut Place: I don't know what the actual name of this place is, but they serve free coffee and a nice selection of fresh donuts for free. Mostly the fluffy yeast donuts with glazing - I did not see any cake donuts, but I don't really like cake donuts. They have regular flavors like chocolate and strawberry glazed
to exotic like passionfruit and key lime. So many flavors and very good. You can also purchase specialty coffee drinks. This place is located near the entrance of the boardwalk.
Ice Cream Parlor: Also on the boardwalk, across from the Donut Place, this is an ala carte dessert place. It looks nice and the ice cream desserts look very good, we just were never hungry enough to stop for a sundae. Maybe next time.
Sorrento's Pizza: Free pizza place located in the Promenade. Pizza is good and fresh - pretty standard. They offer cheese, sausage, pepperoni, and one special pizza that changes. They also have a choose your toppings personal pizza that you can order. I think they are open until midnight - not bad for a snack.
Park Cafe: Free (except for specialty coffee drinks) and open 24 hours. They serve sandwiches, cookies, brownies, and coffee. You can get water and ice tea here too. Its located next to the guest services.
Cupcake Place: A cute cupcake shop next to the Park Cafe. Pretty much small and large cupcakes of all kinds of usual and unusual flavors and decorations. They also have for sail cook books and cupcake themed things. We booked a cupcake decorating class here for about $22 pp. Its an hourlong class and they provide all the materials. We learned how to make a double burger cupcake with fries. Really fun and we got an awesome treat. Did I really learn much? Not sure, because all of the items were prepped ahead of time for us and we basically just put it together, but it gave me some great ideas. We also got a surprise gift at the end! I thought it was a lot of fun and there were a number of parents with their older and teenaged kids at the class (both boys and girls). They limit the size of the class to about 8 people. One beef I had, was that people kept coming in to buy stuff and there was only one employee there and she was instructing us! She said the shop is closed during class, but she had no sign or anything to put in the entryway. They should just have another person working to man the counter. I think having all those people in there taking a class actually draws customers into the shop. Was it worth it? I think so, especially with an older child or teenager, but I think for me once was enough.
Windjammer Cafe: This is their buffet. We ate here for breakfast and lunch. I didn't think it was too small for the size of the ship. There are two sections with the same food items, plus I thought they did a good job of crowd control, which I liked a lot. They actually seated people and made sure that there weren't too many people at once at the buffet. We did not wait long to be seated. I am not sure what all the complaints were because they had a nice international selection of food and its buffet food - so not everything is going to be out of the ball park, but I really thought it was tasty and I liked the
selection. The service was also good. We liked to eat here when we could. Breakfast was also good with decent selections.
There are also some snack places on the pool decks which we never ate at because we just never did, too many choices.
Izumi - a Japanese specialty ala carte restaurant on the same level as the Windjammer. Its lovely and has pretty views, but we never had a chance to eat here. I love sushi and am reluctant to try it on a ship when I have it quite often in Chicago, but the prices are very very reasonable for the sushi rolls and pieces. I would have liked to try it, but we just only have so much room in our stomachs. I think you should try it, if you either have never had sushi before or don't get a chance to have it very often. I watched the ship's cooking channel on their tv and they kept showing the chef from Izumi make food and it looked really good.
I probably missed some other food opportunities, but I think this pretty much covers everything.
Shows: Can I just say WOW! Definitely WOW! Royal Caribbean knows how to put on over the top amazing extravaganzas! We tried not to miss any of the entertainment, including the lounge singers and jazz musicians. Even their standard fair belly flop contests were fun fun. We missed some of the other
standard fare, but not the shows. I recommend making reservations ahead of time, but most shows you can still get a seat - they let people in without reservations about 10 minutes before the show. The only exception is the comedy show. It is a much smaller venue - you will not likely get in standby. This show
you must make a reservation.
Hairspray - this is the broadway musical shown on the Oasis, the Allure is showing Chicago. The lead singer sang and played this part on Broadway for 2 years prior and I could tell. Its a full length Broadway show without any intermission. The talent was top notch, the sets were amazing, and the costumes
were above par. We were amazed and entertained. Don't miss it! They only have maybe 2 showings for the entire cruise. A bonus, we saw the star of the show and the actor who plays her mom sing Broadway show tunes at the Viking Crown lounge one evening (see it if you can).
Frozen: I think this is what its called is there icecapades show and what a show it is! Amazing! Its in the Studio B ice rink. The stunts, routines, costumes and story line are amazing. These are international Olympic skaters - also not to be missed. I don't want to give too many spoilers. Its not the Disney movie
Oasis of Dreams - this is their incredible aqua show - again stunning with high dives, water ballet and acrobats ala Cirque du Soleil. Very much like the Vegas show "O" - this aqua stage is definitely state of the art and custom build costing millions. These are olympic and olympic quality gymnasts and divers. We
were able to see the show from our balcony as well. Reservations are a must - as this is a popular show and get there early (about 30 min) to get a seat. We just brought our books and read. Only thing is the seats can be somewhat uncomfortable.
Headliner - this is a special guest that is brought on for this show. It changes all the time, you probably don't need reservations.
Comedy show: Hilarious! There are essentially 4 comedians and they differ, but the ones we saw were hilarious and many are featured on Comedy Central. I definitely recognized the comedians. MUST HAVE RESERVATIONS. The design was to make it feel like you were in an intimate comedy club and it worked for the most part.
Parades! They have two parades in the Promenade - really over the top and a lot of fun. Great for the kids. Definitely worth seeing at least once.
Various shows and special events - they have a great 70s dance party in the Promenade with singers and dancers all over the place. Lots of fun! There is a glow party in Studio B (they place some flooring over the ice) and its fun, but after awhile it basically becomes a teen party. However, same night they have an adult party in the Solarium with DJ - that was fun too.
Night clubs and Bars: RC has so many bars all over, each one different and separately themed. We liked the one in the middle of the promenade that goes up to the Central Park and down again, there is a hidden one in the Central Park which is nice and we liked hanging out at the Boardwalk Bar. They have
essentially one night club across from the Comedy Club, the music is good and most nights it is really hopping - the decor is kind of weird though kind of like a spanish dungeon or something. I am not too crazy about the design, but they have some fun and cool special effects and we had fun there. The other
place we liked was Dazzles - really beautiful two story club that featured live bands and a lighted dance floor. It overlooked the Boardwalk - when there is a band it is hopping, otherwise it becomes a nice place to read.
Pools: Boy this place has a ton of pools! A freshwater pool, saltwater pool, adult pool in Solarium, kids area pools, and hot tubs galore - I think there must have been like 10 hot tubs all over the pool deck. The kid's area was really cool and people really liked to congregate in and around the pools. We liked being in the shade and spent a couple of days at the main pools in the middle. We did not care too much for the Solarium because it became a sauna and was too hot. I think its the design with the enclosed glass which probably acts like a magnifying glass and traps the heat, plus it was consistently over crowded in my opinion with a number of drunk and sloppy adults during the day - evening it was nice and tranquil. The people were so annoying that I preferred the main pools with kids! The kids were for the most part mainly at the kids area and if a kid wandered to the other pools and acted obnoxious someone would
ask the kid to act appropriately which worked. Most kids had their parents with them, so we never had kid issues.
There were plenty of seats - so we typically were ok finding seats. We liked to go there in the later afternoon when there was less people and the sun wasn't too hot. By 4:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. a lot of people left for their 6 p.m. dinner, which was fine by us.
One oddity was that the smoking section was in this small part of the pool deck by the bar and I don't get it, but the same people would spend the whole day there and night too puffing away. This was not a pretty part of the ship either. I just didn't get it, but I guess whatever floats your boat.
Activities: Lots of activities for active people. There is a short zip line that went across the top of the Boardwalk, we tried it once and it was fun but short. A good number of people liked the Flowrider, which is the surfing and boogie boarding simulator - they have two of them and its harder than it looks. We did
not try it - we thought about an individual class, but decided to pass because the water jets were very powerful. They have a miniature golf course, a carousel, climbing wall, and ice skating rinks. Of course they have a nice basketball court, which was constantly in use and ping pong tables which were
also constantly in use. I am sure there are other things I am missing, but this gives you an idea. Oh and shopping - there are a number of stores on the ship and they have their specials like all ships. People seemed to like that a lot.
Movies: They show first run movies in the main theater and have 3D capabilities. You won't know what movie is playing until the day of unfortunately and the movies rotate and are never replayed on a single cruise. We saw the last 2/3rds of the latest Thor movie and it was like watching a movie in a theater.
Casino: We don't gamble, but I have to say that this was one of the largest casinos I have ever seen at sea. Its not cheap to gamble here, but people seemed to have a lot of fun.
Guests: I liked the mixture of guests both young and old. It made the ship very lively and the atmosphere fun. The ship was probably close to capacity and I sometimes felt it, but it didn't bother me - there are many quiet spots, but there was plenty of room. A stroll at night in Central Park was one of my
favorite things - its lovely and peaceful.
Loyalty Club: Meh they don't have the best perks for loyalty members.
Ports of Call: Pretty mediocre for the most part, except for Cozumel, but we were in this for the ship.
Day 7 Disembarkation Day. We had breakfast in the Main Dining Room and then had plenty of time before we had to disembark. This was not as smooth as getting on the boat. But this was mainly because of customs. This was not Royal Caribbean's fault. They were very efficient otherwise, but there was a huge back up in Customs. It took us awhile to get off the boat and through customs. We decided
to rent a car (Thrifty is the best deal and closest to Port Everglades) and drive to Ft. Lauderdale Beach. If you have more than 3 hours before your flight, its actually cheaper to rent a car to store your luggage than to store it at the airport through a service - airports typically won't take luggage more than 3
hours before your flight, but double check. We then spent the afternoon at the Ft. Lauderdale Beach and rented chairs, an umbrella, and towels from the municipal employees on the beach - my husband bargained with the guy and got this all for $10. We rented the car for about $25, but I have been able to rent it cheaper in the past.
Overall Summary: Awesome ship, huge, beautiful, and surprising. We had a fantastic time and booked this cruise for the ship rather than the ports. We were not disappointed. You can't help but have fun and it is very easy to meet people. However, its hard to see them again unless you try or are lucky. We were
both lucky and we tried to meet some of the same people on the ship. Great for couples, retirees, families, kids of all ages, I really love this ship. We plan on booking a cruise on the Allure of the Seas in the future.