Embarkation: I was intrigued when i repeatedly read that you will be on board in 15-30 mins from the time you arrive at the terminal. I was shocked to learn, right off the bat, that this simply isn't true. it's 12 minutes! Absolutely amazing! It used to be the 2nd worse part of the vacation years ago, when it would take an hour or more in a crazy crowded terminal. RCCL gets credit for this. This ship will not be going to any port that cannot prove that they can handle the 6000+ people. This embarkation process sets a new standard and definitely gets the week off to a great start.
Cabin: We did a back to back that I did not book at the same time. This meant that I had to change cabin after one week. When this happens, we have the unique opportunity to compare the decks/locations, the cabins themselves and the stewards. Invariably, one will be better than the other. That doesn't make the poorer one poor, it just presents a point of comparison. We were on deck 14, Central Park Balcony. cabin 14229 and those like it have a double size balcony. Nice surprise! Deck 14 is ok. Its pretty high above Central Park. Lower would be better. The pool deck is Deck 15, so there is a bit of noise and music from there. The interior balconies are unique and worth experiencing, but they aren't very private, unlike ocean side balconies. And they lack anything that resembles an ocean breeze. During the 2nd week, we were on Deck 8, overlooking the Boardwalk, right over Rita's Cantina. I liked being on Deck 8. Same level as Central Park. Right in the middle of all the places you want to be at. The cabins themselves were very similar. RCCL has a customer for life with us for many reasons, and one of them is the Cabins; 5 electrical outlets, iPod dock/charging station, comfortable beds, balcony doors that slide, not slam. Both stewards were fine. One more personable than the other, but they did their jobs and I have no complaints.
The laundry service is lacking, but I happen to be an efficiency expert in that field so I will be contacting RCCL soon to offer my services.
Ports: We've been to all the ports that the Allure visits and they are good places to visit, and they are great places to visit if you've never been. One note about St Thomas..., whenever we go there, we have always just toured the shopping areas. Having just done that in October, we did a private Island tour and it was excellent! This is a very beautiful place. In Jamaica, we did a helicopter tour. Awesome! We went on this ship for the ship. Surely, this is what RCCL hopes for and the Allure does not disappoint.
Shows: Over the 2 week period, we missed the Headliner show (Abba tribute) and the comedy show during the first week. The 2nd week, we watched Blue Planet for the second time. This show is a DON'T MISS. We saw OceanAria 3 times. Spectacular! Chicago was excellent. We have seen this show numerous times and this is probably the best performance that we've seen. The Headliner during week 2 was a MoTown tribute. Good show. The comedy show was also good. Understand that there are more places to eat on this ship than there are meals in a week and you will have a show to go to just about every day. Or you can relax.
Ship: This ship is amazing. It is very hard to describe. Pictures don't do it justice. We did not see every part of the ship during 2 weeks. What I liked best about the Allure is that it is so tastefully decorated. None of the furniture is ugly or gaudy. I would decorate any room in my house like any room in the Allure is decorated. The kiosks at which you can check your account and check and even print your daily schedule. (What time is our dinner reservation? When is the Blue Planet show?) Technologically, this ship is so far advanced that it will probably not even have a rival for years. The video screens that tell you what is going on, the crowds at the restaurants, directions to your room and any other place. At Vintages, you get an iPad to browse the menu and wine cellar and can order thru it. There are other things as well. You'll see when you get on board.
There are a lot of people on this ship with you, but you'd never know it. The only time you really feel the crowds is at the parades. But complaining about this is silly. When there is a parade in my small town, there are many people on the town center, its crowded.
Deck chairs are always an issue on every ship that we have ever been on. Except aboard the biggest ship in the world. If there are 6000 people on this ship, then there must be 12,000 deck chairs. Sure, they are not all right by the pool, but there are plenty of available chairs in the sun or in the shade. Furthermore, we are not "pool people", meaning we did get out there at 8am to get a chair. Anytime, any day. We have been on ships half this size and never found a chair. You may think that you should avoid this ship if you dislike crowds, but you are wrong to think this. Honestly, if you hate crowds, this is the ship to cruise on! We were never in a crowded bar, area, or restaurant. Not once in 2 weeks. At the customer relations desk, which is busy at times, there are a couple of Customer Relations people talking to people in the lines to find out what they need. Most times your questions were answered while waiting in line. This is excellent customer service.
Debarkation: Yes, I know I haven't mentioned the food. I want to keep that for last. We walked off with our luggage. A minor inconvenience with a big payoff. We were 3 hours early for a 10:30am flight. If you can do this, I recommend it. The last thing that you want after vacationing all week is stress on Sunday morning.
Food, Restaurants, Bar Staff: We enjoy fine dining. We are foodies. But at home, we don't eat at Capriccio's or the Four Seasons every night. You can't go to the Windjammer buffet and expect 5-star. That's just silly. We had breakfast there 2 or 3 times. I wouldn't go there for dinner. Some reviewers have commented on the quality of food at the buffets on this and on other ships. It is important to have your expectations in line when you review places like this. Some people are very comfortable in the Windjammer Marketplace environment. They would consider this venue excellent. There's nothing wrong with it. We ate at most of the places on the ship. Even the places that were just so-so are better than at most mid-market restaurants and better than any hotel food I've ever eaten at (and I travel for all the time). My opinions:
Windjammer breakfast. It's fine for what it is.
Solarium breakfast. This is my pick for breakfast. Very good. I don't think that we ever went to the Main Dining Room for breakfast
Johnny Rocket breakfast is free. If you like McDonald's for breakfast you'll like this a bit better.
Room service breakfast: We did this most days. Room service is rarely over-the-top and this is no exception. You get Room Service for the luxury and the convenience. They succeed. We ordered cereal, fruit, juice and coffee. It was always on time.
Park Cafe: Great place for a bagel with Lox or any other way.
Hot Dog Place: A couple of times I had a hot dog or two here. I like this place!
Park Cafe: Great place, great salads and the roast beef sandwiches really are outstanding! We went here several times
Sorrento's Pizza: We tried this a couple of times. It's ok pizza. Great late night snack too.
Johnny Rockets: When we were on the Independence of the Seas a couple of years ago, I remember really liking Johnny Rockets and had lunch there twice in 6 days. It's a cool place to good to and the food is fine. As long as your expectations are in check, you aren't likely to be disappointed, but if you think that Johnny Rockets is going to be the best meal you ever had, well...
Vintages: One of best lunches ever!
Rita's Cantina: Some reviewers frowned upon Rita's and mentioned a few menu items. We didn't expect much. Well, the other reviewers are wrong. This venue was great! The menu choices are complete and excellent. Great drinks, great food and the staff here became our friends immediately. We knew 4 of them by name within a few days and they knew us. Fanny, Angelica, Z and Momcelo are great!
Giovanni's: World-class italian cuisine. Loved it. Thanks to Mario and Zolton!
We ate at the Main Dining Room only 3 times. We were so impressed with our wait staff during our first visit that we asked for her the next time, which was the second week. We have no complaints at all about the MDR. We didn't go often because we loved the specialty restaurants. More on those in a bit. The 3rd time in the MDR was at the Captain's table. This was a real treat! We had a chance meeting with the Captain at the end of the first week. Captain Hernan Zini is a real gentleman and he honored us with an invitation to dine with him on our last Friday evening. There were a total of 4 couples along with the Captain and his elegant wife. This was a real honor and quite an experience.
Izumi: World Class Asian cuisine. Its expensive. A cover charge, plus a charge for each item ordered. But we ate there twice.
The Chef's Table: The place for true gourmets. We booked this a second time but cancelled because it was the same night that the Captain invited us to dinner.
Giovanni's: We are big fans of fine Italian food and this place is very very good. We ate here 3 times.
Rita's Cantina: Like I said about lunch, we liked this place
150 Central Park: This isn't for everybody, but from a gourmet's perspective, this is one of the finest meals at sea in one of the most beautiful restaurants you'll see. This is a set menu restaurant with only two different menus. We ate there twice.
It is true that we ate at the specialty dining venues most of the time. But that is what we like. We eat at expensive places at home too. But not always. And when we don't, we don't complain that it wasn't on par with 150 Central Park. It is what it is and you get what you pay for. And there is nothing wrong with the free food venues, so you can't go wrong.
This is the best cruise ship in the world.