-Chicago was quite good. No specific thoughts, but we were pleased.
-The Comedy Show was great, we went to the 11:30 PM showing. The late shows are usually more raunchy and fun in our opinion. One annoying item was that we made a reservation for the 11:59 show before boarding, and they moved it up to 11:30. We were not contacted, we just saw it in the Cruise Compass and showed up at the time printed. Good thing we did..
-The Aqua show was great. Much like Oasis of Dreams, there was no comprehensible plot, just an excuse for acrobatics and diving. One thing I will note is that they didn't seem to have as many high divers on the Allure -- not sure if one was sick or they are short one. On the Oasis the last two years, they had multiple divers who have jumped from the top. I made friends one year with one of the performers, and he was saying that the show is altered based on the skills of the performers (he was a regular diver, not an insane one).
-Blue Planet was not my favorite, as it was a revue, but the acrobatics and stunts were impressive. DGF was a bigger fan of it than I was.
-The Madagascar Aqua show wasn't really much of an aqua show, it was really more of a Madagascar Show. The "Splish Splash Comedy Show" on Oasis in past years was more water focused -- this one was more focused on the characters, so wasn't aimed at our demographic. All the kids seemed to have a blast though.
-We did the Prohibition Party. The band was fantastic, the overall experience was fun, and the drinks were good. About 60% of the people who attended dressed up, and everyone danced. One thing I was not impressed with was the snacks (not that I needed more food) -- it was the usual hors d'ouvre at the Diamond club/Champagne Bar. After dinner, who needs more of that? We also were not surprised, but not thrilled that you of course had to buy your picture they took with you after already having paid the $35 cover charge. They also didn't do any of the call ahead/password/receive your pin in advance that some posters have mentioned. You just got and gave the password at the door. Despite the minor complaints, it was a good time and we would absolutely do it again.
-Extra shout out for the evening concerts in Central Park -- a different performer from the various venues each night, all were great and added nice ambiance.
-Giovannis Table was good. Nothing memorable, but well worth it, and we will do it again.
-Chef’s Table was fantastic. We had avoided it historically because DGF isn’t a big drinker, but we decided to go for it since the new Chops menu rolled out on Allure (BOOO), so we said what the hell. The whole experience was top notch, the chef and the Sommelier (Rudi, who stole the show) were very interactive and thoroughly explained the food and would have the group try the wines with and without the food, and in different orders, etc. The best way to describe it is that Park 150 is a restaurant, and the Chef’s Table is more of an experience. We had a great table as well, really enjoyed their company. We will do this again, even with the steep price tag.
-Park 150 is still also great. One thing that I can confirm from others mentioning is that if you had the drink package (I did), the pairing was discounted 20%, like any bottle of wine. Still not a GREAT deal, but better than nothing. One odd thing was when DGF ordered the signature martini, they didn’t leave the shaker. We asked, and our waiter seemed to have no idea what we were talking about -- has anyone else had this experience? In the end, we didn’t get charged for it, so it wasn’t a big deal, but the martini glasses they use are smaller than usual, so a single serving would have been disappointing for the price of the drink if it hadn’t ended up free.
-MDR experience was good. The service was good, and the food was good. Nothing spectacular or particularly memorable, but we enjoyed it. The one thing I’ll note is that I thought the dessert quality was hit or miss. The mousse desserts were not great -- not bad, just kind of there. The souffles and pastries seemed a bit better.
-Boardwalk Dog House was awesome. Two thumbs up. They even had a decent selection (3 or so) of non-pork dogs.
-Snails were only available on the second formal night.
-Limes were plentiful.
-Park Cafe was good, as usual.
-Windjammer was Windjammer. We only went twice for lunch and debarkation day for breakfast. The Indian food remained a nice hidden treat in my opinion.
After much, much, much deliberation and scouring of the forums, I decided to do the drink package. I like the variety of drink venues on board, I drink a lot on the cruises, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I went all out with the Ultimate Package for the sparkling water and espressos. I am Diamond level, but I really enjoy the variety on the ship both for wine and drinks, so figured I’d give it a roll since rail martinis get old. Here are my thoughts:
-Service was great. All of the bartenders were friendly and helpful and creative.
-All the drinks were plenty strong. The bartenders had no problem adding floaters upon request to drinks (honestly not sure if they’d do that if I didn’t have the package or not, anyone have any experience?)
-I had no problems getting drinks back to back (i.e., a water and a drink, or a shot and a beer chaser). I didn’t abuse it, but I asked nicely and didn’t have an issue.
-I had no problems with the issue of the charging of the difference for wine over $12. Every place just charged me the difference, no drama or problems.
-There is poor signage around what’s included and what’s not. Most beers are now included, but the Bow and Stern bar still had the old menus. The bartenders would tell you if asked, but you had to ask. By the time I discovered this it was later in the cruise, although I didn’t drink a lot of beer overall.
-So -- was it worth it? Drum roll… I still am not sure. In retrospect, doing it with all of the above drinking I mentioned (Chef’s Table, 150 pairing, Prohibition Party) was probably more alcohol than I needed. I hit the wall a few days - never hungover, just didn’t really want to drink. From a financial perspective, I did get my money’s worth, but I’m not sure if I’d do it again for health reasons.
-I didn’t think the staffing reductions were that noticeable, although our stateroom attendant, particularly the first day, seemed very overworked and tired. We didn’t get turn down the first night, oddly -- to be honest, I didn’t bring it up with her because the room was still clean and we were caught off guard by it. No issues from then on out, and she was really nice about bringing me extra ice and bags so I could ice my knees from a gym injury.
-There were two presumably stray - or perhaps they were the island staff’s pets -- dogs that were hanging around the beach (Adrenaline Beach) at Labadee. We didn’t touch them, but others were petting them and feeding them. They were friendly, but that seemed really weird. No one complained that I saw though.
-We found all 20 small wonders. Yes, we’re a little odd.
-Much as with the Oasis, I was really impressed with the art on the ship -- the decoration art, not Park West, to be clear. The LED sculpture under pool deck bridge in Central Park was very cool.
-I did the Horticulture tour with the lead gardener for the Oasis class, Tom. Very fascinating, and he was talking about some of the challenges of making Central Park work. One interesting thing is that Oasis is drydocking in Rotterdam, and he is expecting to lose as many as 50% of the plants from the cold. He’s working with the Chief Engineer to try to come up with ideas to save some. Allure will drydock in Barcelona so he thinks it won’t be as much of an issue there -- it is much warmer.
-Not sure if it was just this cruise or not, but the dealers at the casino did not seem to be as sharp as other cruises I’ve been on. I witnessed multiple missed bets and a general lack of control over some of the tables. Usually RC’s dealers are pretty sharp, so it struck me as a bit off.
-RC’s IT issues continue. After the first day or two, you couldn't create new accounts to use the internet, so we couldn't redeem DGF’s diamond coupon. I went to guest services, they said IT knew about it, and to call them and get an access code. I called IT, and they actually gave us two 60 minute codes (so an extra one) as an apology for the inconvenience.