Our 15th Wedding Anniversary and both of our Birthdays (all three on the same day). We try to cruise every year at this time. We were married on a cruise 15 yrs ago - so it is sorta a tradition for us. And what a great tradition!
We flew in a day early (gives luggage a chance to catch up if it gets lost and the airlines to get their act together in case of cancelled flight), and stayed at the Embassy Suites on 17th Street. This is our 4th time staying here - and we like it. It is directly in front of a small mall that has restaurants and a grocery store - to pick up those little things the airline makes you take out of your luggage because it weighs 51#. The Embassy provided transportation from the airport and then to the cruise port the next morning. A few people from our Roll Call stayed there also and we met them at the managers complimentary reception. So nice to meet the people you have been excited with over the last few months before sailing. We watched the Oasis sail out that evening from the port - which built our excitement even more. That morning, very early (5ish) we watched the Allure pull into port - all the lights shining, looking for her next group of passengers, who would be hooked for a lifetime.
We left the Embassy Suites at approx 10:30am, went through the terminal - check in was a breeze - and on the ship by 11:15am. So many of RCCL staff greeting you every step of the way - welcoming you and the lady that checked us in even wished us a Happy Birthday(s) and Happy Anniversary.
You walk up the terminal to the ship and you just feel that it is different from anything you have seen before. (Get the first picture taken, it links all your other pictures together by face recognition - and as it turned out - was one of the best pictures of the cruise). You step on the ship, the Royal Promenade area and it looks like a large mall with lots of excited people all in the same WOW state that you are in. You see the rising tide bar with the water fountains underneath, you smell the Sorrento's pizza and marvel at the Cafe' Promenade, (both will be the midnight hangout by the end of the cruise), the Cupcake shop is just darling - you see.... so much that it is too much to take in. We strolled this area, then went to the Boardwalk. Being a kid at heart, this was one of my favorite areas. It seems like a Carnival with the ice cream shop, candy store, Carousel Merry go Round, Water Fountain show, smell of popcorn, face painting, balloon making, and just the atmosphere is child like and dreamy. Next we went to the Central Park - the most romantic place on the ship! The live greenery/flowers/trees is just amazing. It all looks so classy and feels like you have arrived in a tranquil area all your own. At night the romantic music provided by a guitar and violin with the sounds of birds/crickets in the background set a romantic mood for even the old fuddy duds. Next up - the pool decks! The Childrens pool area is very colorful and wonderfully done. Lots of area for parents to sit around the pool/play area to watch the kids. They have a wadding pool and also a small size pool (looks like a whirlpool) with clear walls so that you can see all the way into it. The beach pool looks like a beach and the main pool (we weren't there much - smoking area) is basically the same. There is also a sports pool that the daytime activities take place at. We also visited the soft serve ice cream machine that is located between these pools. The flow rider (great place for amusement and amazement) is there and also the zip line. We explored the Solarium (you have to see the infinity whirlpools to believe how exotic they are). We, later in the evening, discovered a glass of champagne and how relaxing the whirlpool could be. It hangs over the side of the ship and has little lights that twinkle. It appears that the whirlpool is in the ocean. I knew my way around the ship because I had studied the deck plans, read tons of reviews and listened to the Cruise Critic group about where to go and what to do. Our rooms were opened at about 1pm. First impression of the room - very cool temp and soothing tones - however... the bed was beside the closet and that made a tight squeeze when trying to dress or pack - very minor complaint! We had a balcony (what is a cruise without one?) and it was used often. I like that the balcony table is a tall table and not just the small drink holder size. I had ordered flowers (a birthday cake made out of flowers - gorgeous), champagne, and a juice package - all were there and ready (mimosas every morning). We met our cabin stewardess -Sarmen and she was just wonderful and lovely the whole cruise. She called everyone by their first name from day one. Around 2pm our luggage was delivered and we unloaded. Large closet, deep shelves, small safe, and I bring an over the door shoe hanger for all our little stuff (toothbrushes/paste/soaps/sunscreen/lotion/q-tips/shampoo/hair products/odds and ends that lay around and create clutter). The step in the shower for your foot when shaving is a wonderful bonus. We went to the mandatory life boat drill that was located at the Aqua Theater and then off to meet our Roll Call for Sail Away at the Sky Bar. Great group of people! Later in the week, Royal Caribbean hosted a party for our Roll Call Meet and Mingle group. The provided soft drinks, juice, coffee, tea, lemonade, fruit, cheese, crackers and gifts! Was very nice and we had around 40 people to show up. Thank you Royal Caribbean if you are reading!
We had 6pm traditional dining, that put a little cramp in our sail away from all ports and shore excursion time - I knew better, but I want traditional dining and the 8:30pm slots were full. The dining rooms (3 floors) are spectacular. We were on the 3rd floor dining room. Our waiters were very attentive and fun. We sat with Paul and Kendra (who I had been talking to on our Roll Call and had no idea they would be our table mates - small world! and wonderful table mates). Food was just OK, several items were very good (mostly the chilled soup, scallops and pasta dishes). If you had a show to attend, the wait staff was excellent about getting you out quickly. The Maitre'd was the friendliest I have ever met.
We ate in the dining room for breakfast, they have servers or buffet style. We had breakfast/lunch in the Windjammer - was always a large selection and could find about anything you could want to eat. We ordered room service two nights (the spinach artichoke dip is awesome). We also ate at Park Cafe, Sorrentos, Cafe' Promenade, and had daily ice cream cones on the pool deck - did I mention the soft serve is free and can be found between the two sets of swimming pools and also in the Wipe Out Cafe'. We also did the $21 Ritas Cantina party with 3 free drinks and Mexican dinner (way too much food). We had 16 of our Roll Call there and arranged to sit together - it was one huge party! There is dancing, a DJ, crazy acting waiters, Johnny Rockets staff come over and dance, Rita gets EVERYONE on their feet and it is like a huge street party in the middle of Boardwalk. After that was the Quest Show - don't miss this, it is a blast.
All the shows were wonderful: A Late night movie on the Aqua Theater Big Screen, Character Parade, Quest, The Water Fountain to music show at the Aqua Theater (that is the last night - is awesome), Ice Skating Show, Chicago, Blue Planet, Ocean Aria, the Headliner was Earl Turner and that man had more energy than any 10 people put together. We did not go to the Comedy show - we had reservations and they gave our seats away 15 minutes before the start of the show. The guy at the door said his watch was wrong and he made a mistake. 10 of us (that had reservations) were turned away. Get to the shows early - seats go fast - make your reservations on line prior to cruising and coordinate it with your dinner times.
ODDS AND ENDS:
We had a towel critter in our room every night. This is special for me - I don't get that anywhere but a cruise and I look forward to it. The Aqua Theater allowed us to observe when their people were practicing - these are spectacular athletes. Floor 14 aft, starboard has a secret door - go explore it. Floor 14 forward, port-side has a secret door - go see how the captain lives. The captain was friendly and could be seen strolling, eating/snacking and talking with passengers. All staff we encountered were friendly. There is constant music everywhere you go, cruise bands, pool music, classical guitar/violins, piano music that is upbeat and on occasion - romantic, and then people music - laughter and the sound of relaxation. The Rising Tide Bar is a must - just to say you have been on a floating bar. The Spa is peaceful and serene and smells of flowers and herbs. The mini golf course is colorful and lots of people seemed to be having a blast. We watched, from the Wind Jammer at lunch, a sporting event on the basketball court - was very amusing. The COKE cards came in handy and not once did I feel like the bar staff didn't want to serve me. If you ask for a Diet Sprite, they open a can for you and its not fountain. The elevators are crowded 90% of the time, and the days of the week are posted there. The wall computers that help you get around the ship are helpful if you can follow a map! One complaint that I would have had, is if I had been on the same dining room level as the casino - the smoke smell was horrid. You could smell it from the second the elevator opened and into the dining room on that level. Also walking past Bolero's Latin Bar you could smell smoke.
Labadee: we parasailed twice and flew down the zip line! OMG how awesome!
Truly one of our favorite places. We, in fact, picked the Western Caribbean itinerary because it went to Labadee. We joke and call it "OUR" private island.
Cozumel: we went to Nachi Com. Made reservations through Island Marketing for the day resort (all inclusive - frosty drinks, fabulous food, wonderful service bottled water, bottled Coke products). We took a taxi there ($15 each way, plus tip). We parasailed there and my husband did a snorkel excursion and went to two reefs (Columbia and Plantar). You can chose between sitting at the pool (shaded umbrellas) or on the beach (shaded palm trees). I had an iguana visitor while he was gone (glad it was at a distance). They also have a very nice swimming pool that you have concrete steps to get into (and out of) the pool and a swim up bar.
Jamaica: We did the ship excursion and went to Ibereostar Resort (Montego Bay). Ship provided transportation in A/C vans, took about 20 minutes. The resort is the Ibereostar Beach Resort (if your goggling, its the cheaper one on the website - there are 3 side by side). This is an all inclusive resort, food/drinks/activities/music - much like being on a cruise, only with free drinks. The resort is lovely and well maintained. Their pool is very very nice and the LARGE buffet and snack shack had good food. Plenty of shade at the pool and on the beach. They also had water activities there.
So much negative has been posted about the new port in Jamaica. While the port is not ready - it is one of the friendliest ports I have visited. When we arrived in the morning, there were fishermen in their boats waving to us... WELCOME ROYAL CARIBBEAN PEOPLE they were saying. At the port, the locals were welcoming us, telling us how glad they were that we were visiting 'THEIR' Jamaica. They gave us backpacks and the vendors were not at all pushy. I felt more uncomfortable in Cozumel port than I did in Falmouth.
Sea Days: Spent exploring the Allure. Not enough time in a week to see it all and take it all in. Most days/evenings/we were in the Central Park area (a nightly ritual) or sitting at the Aqua Theater watching the water shows. Lots of time in the Solarium area.
The saddest day of the week. Was speedy. We had Princess Transfers back to the airport ( I always say I will just get a taxi, but I like the luggage valet). Our plane left FLL at 11:30, just as people were boarding the Allure. I saw the Allure from the airplane window and wondered how I would ever go back to an ordinary cruise ship after I had just experienced the Allure.