My wife and I have now been on the Allure of the Seas twice. The first time was the very first pre-inaugural two day sailing (to nowhere) for travel partners, etc. During this cruise the upcoming film Jack and Jill with Adam Sandler, Katie Holmes and Al Pacino was being shot in various locations throughout the ship. During these various “shoots” access to certain parts of the ship were limited. Notwithstanding, who can complain about a free cruise on the newest and biggest ship around? No me…or my wife. We appreciated the break from our normal routine. Since we had sailed on the Oasis of the Seas in January of 2010 we already had a pretty good idea of what to expect. (My review of that sailing was posted back in February of last year.) However, we heard that some modifications/additions had been made so were looking forward to our customary anniversary vacation, this time on the Allure, for a whole week on the January 23, 2011 sailing. This is a review of that sailing since we were able to get around considerably more.
As was with the Oasis, boarding the Allure was quick and without incident. I like to be early, and now that my wife and I are RCCL platinum members we boarded shortly after the suite and diamond class members. From our previous experience on the Oasis we also knew that there are more food options than the Windjammer which everyone tends to flock to. So Instead of following the crowd to the Windjammer we headed straight to the Park Café and had a wonderful lunch with very limited activity! My wife loves salads…of which you can make your own…and I love their roast beef and other hot sandwiches. (Their desserts aren’t bad either!)
We’ve learned to check out the location of our main dining table early to avoid an undesirable location. They had placed us by the main entrance so we asked to be moved closer to a window which they graciously accommodated. You can do this shortly after boarding. We were in our rooms by 1:00PM with luggage following soon after. Next: RELAX! OK, we did have to go through the muster drill which, as opposed to making everyone don a life jacket and head to an actual emergency boat station, was held in various “areas” of the ship with instructions shown on large TV screens. If an emergency were to happen each passenger heads to their respective “area” to receive a life vest and then head to each group’s respective life boat. It’s never “fun” but it does beat donning a life vest and standing in rows.
Main Dinning: Reasonable food, with some entrees better than others. But overall not bad. We ate three dinners in the main dining, many breakfasts and one lunch.
Windjammer: It’s a buffet! It’s good enough if you have limited time and want a quick bite to eat…and aren’t expecting anything too fancy.
Giovanni’s: AWESOME! Great food, hands down! Worth every penny of the $15 pp surcharge! But just a word of warning, one that other reviewers have mentioned. If you want to get into a specialty restaurant you’d better make reservations as soon as possible online!
Izumi’s: Also, AWESOME! Great menu, great variety, great taste, fantastic service!
Chef’s Table: It was fun…once…but I’d likely not go again. It possibly beats 150 Central Park, especially since the Chef’s Table already comes with wine paring included with each course. You’d end up paying more for something similar at 150 since you pay $35 pp up front plus a wine paring option pp. Also at Chef’s Table we received the RCCL Restaurant Cook Book, a $35 charge elsewhere. So, for the $75 pp Chef’s Table was a fun experience, but for the money I’d prefer to go twice to either Giovanni’s or Izumi’s.
Samba Grill: (The Solarium Restaurant turns into a Brazilian steak house in the evening.) I believe I’m a bit spoiled when it comes to Brazilian steak houses as I’ve been to some in both Brazil and authentic ones Orlando, Florida. The salad bar was OK, the cheese bread was good, and the beans and rice were fine. But the meat wasn’t cooked correctly. The meat was the right meat but it didn’t seem they properly salted it with rock salt while cooking on a rotisserie. When done correctly the rotisserie cooked meat has an incredible flavor enhanced by the rock salt. When not done properly the meat tastes simply bland and not enough table salt “after the fact” can make it right. For $25 pp surcharge I expected better. Also, you have to pay extra for dessert which is simply unconscionable on top of the surcharge. Hopefully enough passengers will comment so they’ll make the necessary improvements. It has the potential to be an excellent specialty restaurant, but they need to learn to prepare the meat correctly and just include the dessert!
Chops Grill: We have been to Chops before. It’s nice but we still prefer Giovanni’s or Izumi’s…and even the Samba Grill if they can get it right!
150 Central Park: Haven’t eaten there, and likely won’t as with wine paring you’re talking about a lot of $ pp. I would tend to choose the Chef’s Table over this specialty restaurant as it similarly is a various course meal with wine paring included. However, if you have no interest in the wine paring 150 Central Park would definitely be a better choice that Chef's Table.
Dog House on the Boardwalk: Great! Lots of choices, and the dogs are tasty!
Rita’s: Don’t know, but will be going back on the Allure with my mom and two of our five kiddos in March and will be doing Rita’s Fiesta with drinks and entertainment included.
Johnny Rocket’s: I don’t mind the $5 pp surcharge, and the onion rings are great, but you shouldn’t have to pay for the milk shake on top of it.
Solarium Restaurant: Open only for breakfast and lunch. Lunch was good, and if you like to hang out in the adult solarium area it’s very convenient.
Sorrento’s: Loved making my own late night pizza!
Promenade Café: Nice snacks and desserts available when hunger strikes…or even when it doesn’t strike!
Shows: All good to excellent, but the ice show fell a little flat…as did the performers more than usual. It’s totally understandable that skating on a moving ship and on a smaller rink presents tough challenges, but we’ve seen much better performances on other RCCL ships with ice skating rinks. I was recently on the Liberty with my 84 year old mom and their ice show was absolutely off the charts amazing! The final act was a hoola-hoop skater that “juggled” from one to upwards of 30+ hoops by the end…flawlessly! This same show also had a trick skater who could land a back flip…more than once! The performers on the Allure didn’t seem too into their show. (The ocean water conditions didn't seem any more "rocky" than similar cruises, but it's possible I'm wrong about this.)
That said, Chicago: Well done! Blue Planet: Exceptional! Headliner with Spectrum, a solid Motown group: Great! Oceanaria: Will take your breath away!
We didn’t see the Comedy show or some of the other impromptu shows.
Flowrider: Could do it everyday! I’m 58, and it was a challenge to get started as it’s definitely a balancing act to learn to remain standing and “surf.” But once you get the hang of it, it’s incredible fun both to participate and watch the others.
I believe the other reviews have sufficiently covered the rooms (we had a nice balcony stateroom on the 12th deck), the service (which was good as far as we were concerned) and other activities. I hope the scoop on the restaurants helps those looking to give them a try. Just remember, reserve both restaurants and shows early online before sailing!