Recently, I was very fortunate to be able to do b2b cruises on Allure (18 May - 1 June), and have been asked to share my thoughts.
My sons & I arrived at the Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale, FL) cruise terminal about 2:30pm. I assumed most of the 6000+ passengers had already boarded, as the building seemed only full of security & embarkation staff.
We completed the Check-in procedure, had our embarkation photos taken and headed for the escalators - passing an aptly worded sign "More WOWs ahead".
We boarded the ship via the Royal Promenade, next to Sorrento's Pizza. Scattered throughout the Royal Promenade were crew members waiting to offer us drink packages, specialty dining packages, shore excursions, spa reservations etc etc etc.
We made our way to our cabin (accessible after 1pm). I had chosen Central Park View Balcony cabins, because I wanted to experience something I couldn't back in Australia. The cabin was pretty much as you would expect size-wise, but at only 4 years old, it was more modern. We had inter-connecting cabins, but one thing we did notice was that all balcony cabins could basically become inter-connecting, with the balcony partitioning able to fold back.
Camera in hand, I went off to explore.
This ship is AMAZING! Never before have I wanted to try and find somewhere to "stow away" on a cruise ship.
The garden beds and trees in Central Park had obviously grown since the maiden voyage, and were now lush and tall. Bromeliads, liriope, golden robinia, phalaenopsis orchids wired to trees .... just heaven for a garden enthusiast. This area also included 3 specialty restaurants and a wine bar, so at night, you really did get that feeling of coming out of a restaurant and walking down the cobbled street, as you decided where you were 'kicking on to'. During the day there was subtle audio of birds chirping. Other days I heard geese and frogs.
The Boardwalk: all the fun of the carnival. Carousel, hot dogs of 6 or 8 varieties, then on sea days there'd be fairy floss & popcorn, hula hoop & ring-toss competitions etc. This area would bring anyone back to their childhood.
The Royal Promenade hosted more shops and complimentary eateries and the first Starbucks at sea Parades were held in this area and intros for theme nights. Shore excursion desk, Guest relations, bars, etc. - a constant hive of activity.
If you're an active person there's PLENTY to do. 2 flowriders (1 for surfing, 1 for boogie boarding), zipline over the Boardwalk, basketball court, ice skating rink, 6 table tennis tables, mini golf ..... A great H2O zone for kids to play in. (1 thing I learned about the H2O zone, is that it has multiple filtration zones, so if a child has an "accident" in one of the pools, they just close down that area/filter for cleaning, they don't shut down the whole kids area - good thinking!!)
We loved the on board mexican restaurant "Rita's Cantina" (probably ate there 5 times over the 2 weeks). Also went to Johnny Rockets 3 times. There are all these specialty restaurants, but then you're almost made to feel bad when you don't turn up to the MDR - I guess everyone's vying for your gratuity...
I booked Chop's Grille specialty restaurant for my birthday dinner, and was very disappointed. Definitely not worth the additional $35pp cover charge (IMO). We got a complimentary lunch at Giovanni's, along with all the other b2b cruisers, and that food was lovely.
The Windjammers buffet was very well run. Crew asked pax to queue at the entrance and they had walkie talkies to assist finding you a table - no more wandering around hoping to find a table and racing someone else who had spotted the same table!
Little details I noticed:
There is no retractable laundry cord in the bathroom. The basin in the bathroom was small (very shallow), so if you're like me and try to do some hand washing during the cruise, you couldn't wash much more than 2 pairs of knickers at a time. The vanity height itself was quite low (I'm 5'5" and I noticed this). It's probably 800mm from the floor, so all the tall people will definitely notice this (my sons are 6'1" & 6'3" and they noticed it).
When you turn off the bathroom light, there is a 'night light' that is permanently on. I thought this was a great idea, especially if you need to visit the loo during the night (or if your brother turns off the light while you're using the bathroom!)
Some crew at bars and cafes, still asked you to swipe your card even if you were on a drinks package. This allowed the crew member the option of getting more gratuity from you. The screen would come up "Do you wish to give an additional gratuity? $1, $2, $5, Other, None." I had to remind myself that gratuity was already included in the drinks package price, and apart from getting great service throughout the cruise, why should the crew be prompting you for more on the first day?? I felt rather uncomfortable about this at first.
I feel like I could go on and on and on, but basically this ship is AMAZING. You don't ever feel like you're on board with 6000 other pax (except for when you're released from the muster drill).