ALLURE OF THE SEAS
February 20, 2010
It's a challenge to sum up my recent experience on ALLURE OF THE SEAS, but to say the ship is utterly amazing is an understatement. Simply put there is nothing like her at sea, except of course for her near sister OASIS OF THE SEAS. While clearly a mass-market ship considering that ALLURE carries 6000+ passengers, the overall experience is something far more substantial than mass-market. The attention to detail, the extra-friendly crew, the amazing hardware, the unsurpassed entertainment at sea, the array of dining choices, and the ship's many unique attractions & attributes all add up to something quite extraordinary.
I sailed on OASIS OF THE SEAS last year, and the ship blew me away. I was equally blown away on ALLURE and in fact I give ALLURE the slight edge over OASIS. Royal Caribbean has tweaked & improved just enough of the experience that ALLURE has a unique atmosphere she can call her own.
I didn't realize it when I booked this sailing just a month in advance, but it fell over President's Day which meant many schools in the Northeast had the week off. This translated into a sailing that was fully booked with a plenty of families, teens, and toddlers. On other ships this may have been an issue, but not so on ALLURE. The kids were well entertained and this meant they were engaged and not an issue. I didn't witness any bad behavior and I never felt overwhelmed by all the kids. Just like on OASIS, lines and crowds were a non-issue. The terminal in Port Everglades is probably the best designed in the world, and it can process 6000 passengers with ease. We arrived around 1:30pm and curbside to walking on the ship is a 15-minute painless experience. Disembarking was just as easy and painless. I would estimate that leaving the cabin to exiting the terminal curbside again was about 15 minutes. It really doesn't get any better than that, even on ships 1/3 the size of ALLURE. I wish other cruise lines placed as much focus on passenger logistics as Royal Caribbean does. Even in ports of call Royal Caribbean has made special arrangements. ALLURE always docks and never tenders, and she has dedicated piers and facilities in the Caribbean. At each pier she docks at, there are special air-conditioned sheds ship-side that are the security check-points. Inside the sheds are multiple metal detectors that process passengers very quickly and ease congestion on the ship's gangway (there are always two large gangways forward and aft). Once you pass through the security shed you just walk on the ship, where escalators take you up one deck to waiting dedicated elevators.
Our cabin was a Central Park View Balcony, cabin 11197. We were almost directly over the Park Cafe and I very much enjoyed the view. The ocean facing balconies were sold out when we booked, so we had the choice of a Boardwalk view or Central Park view. We choose the Central Park view as we prefer a more quiet and serene atmosphere, and we were not disappointed. A few cabin details which were standouts include the bedding, which was ultra comfortable with crisp linens complete with the Royal Caribbean logo embroidered right into the sheets. The iPod docking/charging station was a first on any ship for me and quite welcome. It also included a digital clock. Something else I have never seen were three outlets that were housed in a unique casing on top of the dresser. Very convenient. There was plenty of closet and drawer space for the two of us, but it might be tight for three or more occupants. The standard bathroom was more spacious than typical, and you could actually sit on the toilet without hitting your knees on the wall in front of you. The shower had plenty of space and included the now traditional Royal Caribbean curved sliding doors. Bar soap and individual bath products were included, along with a universal body wash dispenser on the shower wall. One aspect of the design that took a little getting used to was the sink. It was very low and somewhat on the small side. This cabin tour would not be complete without mention of the interactive TV. It's the best I've encountered on land or sea. First off the TV swivels so you can view it from the couch or beds. It's a nice size too for a relatively small space. It's more than a TV though as you can surf the Internet (keyboard is included), check email, review your onboard account, check the status of restaurant seating, book shore excursions, book show times, book specialty restaurants, and order movies. You can also review restaurant menus, order room service, display your personal schedule, and check out the daily program for all the activities.
The cabin TV is just one aspect of the amazing technology used on ALLURE. ALLURE is without question the most technically advanced ship I have ever sailed. There is interactive signage all over the ship that use touch screen panels. You can do anything on these panels from reviewing the daily activities; to finding out how full your favorite restaurant is, to having the sign show you exactly how to get to your cabin (or any other location on the ship). It's really quite extraordinary. In addition to these interactive panels, there are Kiosks located throughout Deck 5. On these Kiosks you can pull up and print you onboard transactions and account balance, check in and print your boarding pass for a return flight home, and review and print your weekly schedule of confirmed dining and entertainment reservations. It's a great feature and super easy to use.
Royal Caribbean refers to ALLURE as the "ship of entertainment" and this is an accurate description. Dare I say there is almost too much entertainment as it's difficult to fit it all in. I highly recommend pre-booking as much of the entertainment and specialty dining reservations as possible from home. While you can wing-it once onboard, prebooking will ensure you don't miss any of the great dining and entertainment options and avoid disappointment. It will also maximize your vacation time onboard as you won't need to spend time booking reservations or waiting in stand-by lines for shows you don't have reservations for. I only booked the cruise a month in advance and I was able to book all the shows and specialty restaurants with little difficulty. I wasn't always able to get all the times I wanted and it took some juggling, but in the end I had a very balanced week of dining and entertainment. Some of the entertainment options include:
Chicago - the musical
Blue Planet Production Show
OceanAria - Diving Show
Ice Games - Ice skating show
Two Parades (one with a Dreamworks theme)
How to Train Your Dragon (Dreamworks Ice skating show)
Ice & The Madagascar (Dreamworks diving show)
Fountain Show (Aqua Theater)
ImagineOcean (kids puppet show but a must see for adults too!)
In addition there are South Beach style parties in the Solarium, a jazz club, live piano in the Schooner Bar, easy listening in the Viking Crown, Rising Tide Bar, Blaze nightclub, big band & 80's/90's theme nights in Dazzles, Latin music and dancing in Boleros, Karaoke in the On-Air Club, wine & tapas in Vintages, and of course one of the largest casinos afloat. The entertainment choices are unmatched at sea. Special mention must go to CHICAGO. It was truly a Broadway quality production and in fact the best production I've seen of this play anywhere.
Almost as varied as the entertainment options are the dining options. I prebooked every specialty restaurant and enjoyed them all. We only dined in the dining room twice this cruise, and I was only in the Windjammer buffet once the entire cruise. There are just too many other interesting dining options, both free and fee-based. My favorite lunch spot was the Park Cafe. Here you will find Royal Caribbean's signature sandwich, which is freshly sliced lean roast beef with a special sauce and horseradish on a salted fresh baked roll. It sounds so simple but it's the best roast beef sandwich I ever had. In addition the Park Cafe serves up wonderful made to order, hand tossed salads. Delicious! I truly enjoyed all the food onboard, both in the free and fee-based restaurants. One thing that could probably be better are the hamburgers. They are precooked and sit in a stainless steel bin. You can request a fresh cooked burger if you don't mind waiting. Overall the best dining experience was 150 Central Park. This is the most elegant and gourmet restaurant onboard. The food is truly gourmet and the presentation and service are superb. It is well worth the $35 per person. Another excellent meal was in Chop's Grill. The steaks were perfect and it was one of the most satisfying meals of the week. In additional we dined at Izumi for sushi, Samba Grill which is a Brazilian style churrascaria, Giovanni's Table for Italian, Sorrento's for Pizza, Cafe Promenade for sandwiches and cookies, and Johnny Rockets for great burgers. Unfortunately we didn't make it to Rita's Cantina for Mexican this time around. Next time! Other dining options include the Wipe Out Cafe for burgers/tacos, the Boardwalk Donut Shop, the Cupcake Cupboard, the ice cream parlor, the Dog House for a variety of hot dogs, and of course room service.
Ports of call included Nassau, St Maarten, and St Thomas. Pretty standard stuff but really a cruise on ALLURE is about the ship, and not so much the ports. We did enjoy absolutely superb weather with sunny skies everyday, not a drop of rain, low humidity, and temperatures in the low 80's. In St Thomas we rented a jeep and took in the views at Mountain Top and enjoyed the afternoon at Magen's Bay, which is still a beautiful spot. As a ship enthusiast part of my enjoyment on a Caribbean cruise is ship spotting. Besides some interesting yachts, I enjoyed seeing the new DISNEY DREAM, which looks spectacular, and some ships we don't see that often in these parts such as AIDAluna, OCEANA, and AZURA. Other ships spotted include CARNIVAL FANTASY; EURODAM; NIEUW AMSTERDAM; CELEBRITY SOLSTICE; CARNIVAL FREEDOM; SEVEN SEAS NAVIGATOR; MSC POESIA; and NORWEGIAN PEARL.
In closing it was an awesome cruise on an awesome ship. There are simply no other ships in the mass-market 7-day Caribbean run that can equal the experience that ALLURE and her sister OASIS can offer. These ships are pricier than most of the competition (exception being Disney), but in my opinion well worth the extra cost. The experience has "quality" written all over it. Great job Royal Caribbean!
300 pictures can be found at the following link: