Cruised on Allure of the Seas on the July 17, 2011 to the Western Caribbean and although the ship and its amenities are magnificent, my recommendation is to only sail when the ship is not at full capacity. Simply put, if you are a fan of shopping at the mall two days before Christmas, this is the cruise for you. If you prefer to sail on a cruise where your main memory is not waiting in one line or the other, then pick another ship or better yet, sail on the Allure when it is not so full.
But first, there was much to like (or even love).
The SHIP: Fabulous, stunning, shimmering, dazzling, tremendous, wonderful. Pick a positive adjective. The ship is truly breath taking. The neighborhood concept is very clever as each has a unique character of its own. One of the places to escape (and trust me you will need it) is Central Park. Pop a squat at Park Café and you will truly think you are sitting in a secluded park somewhere in a small Midwest town. We also spent a lot of time at the Boardwalk. Check out the Ice Cream shop, our boys thought it was some of the best they have had. The Pool and Sports Zone ‘hood was second to none. Do the Zip Line and the Flow Rider. Tip: sign the waiver online and get your wrist band early in the cruise. Best times to Flowride and Zip are days at port and early in the day/cruise. Towards the end of the cruise, the lines get pretty long. The Solarium (adult pool area) was huge and another great place to escape. And even though the ship is huge, no worries about getting lost. They have these awesome touch screens that tell you where you are, what is going on, and how to get to where you want to go.
ROOMS: Our room was very nice. Always kept clean. It seemed like some magic fairy came in and quickly cleaned it even when we had just left for an hour or so.
GYM: Best of the best. Tons of nice, new equipment and extremely spacious. Could have used more free weights, but that is a nit.
EMBARKATION: The Ft. Lauderdale crew was great. We arrived at 11:30 and were on the ship in less than 20 minutes.
The ENTERTAINMENT: Top notch. Ocean Aria was our favorite. Like seeing a mini Vegas show. The Chicago production was fantastic and the way RCI interweaved the DreamWorks characters with shows, parades and character visits was a real treat. The Comedy show was great, but it was disappointing that there was only one set of comedians. Each show was a just a repeat. Other ships rotate comedians and I would suggest Allure do the same. The Ice Games show was pretty cheesy, so go at your own risk. Tip: Make reservations early as most shows sell out. If you forget to do it before you cruise, go to Studio B when you first get on the ship and you can make entertainment and dinner reservations. But the absolute highlight of all the entertainment was Cruise Director Allan Brooks. He is simply one of the funniest humans on the planet (Cruise Director Julie is not worthy to carry Allan’s jock). Go to any show where he is emcee. A Dating Game knockoff, Love and Marriage, was milk out of the nose funny. An adult Quest Game show (Don’t ask, just go, and leave the kids behind) was equally hilarious (I am still amazed at how quick some women can doff a bra. Again, don’t ask).
The BAD (WELL, MAYBE JUST THE NOT SO GOOD):
SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS: Sure all cruise lines count on you spending some jack once on board, but Allure gives you plenty of opportunities to empty your wallet. They have a bunch of premium restaurants, but we were left less than impressed. We did Sambas Grill (Brazilian steakhouse) and Izumi (sushi). Both were O.K. Nothing special except that you could escape the crowds when you eat. But neither was really worth the nominal charge. Save some money and stick with the regular dining room as the food was just as good with a better selection.
SERVICE: This was pretty surprising since this is the third RCI we have been on, but the service was…well, just alright. Some staff were great (Donna, Bernard, Sander), but most just seemed to be doing their job. I don’t need everyone to have some Richard Simmons over the top positive personality, but some emotion would have been nice. They were professional, but many seemed…sterile.
TOO. MANY. PEOPLE. We were told our sailing was at full capacity at over 6,000 guests and quite simply, the ship and crew just were not built for this mass of humanity. You WILL wait…and wait on everything. Get ready to wait on elevators as there is just not enough. The typical scenario was to hit the up/down button and wait…and wait. When one did arrive, the scramble to get on was something to behold. I am not kidding when I saw old people knocked out of the way by guests pushing to get on as if they were cramming onto a Japanese subway. If you were lucky to get on the first elevator (which was rare, usually it took two or three tries to get on an elevator), then you will stop on every floor. Most would be empty as people abandoned their wait and just decided to take the stairs. Very poorly planned. Unbelievably disappointing.
Get used to waiting on restaurants. Whether reservation or My Time, there was always a big wait to get seated. Once seated, the wait between courses was pretty substandard. The worst experience was the Windjammer buffet. No matter what time you went, there was a mass of people fighting to get a table or even to get into the restaurant. Several times, the wait was 20-30 minutes just to get into a buffet. Seriously? The Golden Corral seemed more organized. Again, poor, poor planning
During busy times on the Promenade, it was as if you were a salmon swimming upstream. There were wall to wall people everywhere. Imagine trying to get to Sears on the other end of the mall on December 23rd during a 50% off sale with Justin Beiber performing in the Food Court and you will get the idea.
Debarkation (as other have mentioned) was a joke. Kind of an “every man for himself” attitude. At one point I heard an RCI crew shouting into a 2-way that he had no control over the crowd and could not believe the line to exit the ship wrapped around the elevator. Line jumping was rampant as there seemed to be no crew (or roped off areas) to keep the impatient guest in check. It was just a massive push to the exit.
I am sure the bean counters at RCI thought if big is better than even more should be fantastic. Sadly, the quality of the cruise suffered greatly because of just too many people in too tight (yes, even on this behemoth) of a space.
RCI boosts that when you sail on Allure you will not feel like you are on a ship with 6,000 people. They were correct, many times it seemed like there are 7 or 8,000.