Just home from our first, and definitely not last cruise. We did the Allure Western 7/31 sailing.
Pre-cruise: Stayed at the Courtyard Fort Lauderdale Beach. We got in late Saturday evening - hotel was clean and the staff couldn't have been friendlier. It was even better that we were using Marriott points for the rooms!!
Embarkation: Just as everyone says - a breeze! Grade - A+
The Ship: WOW!! So beautiful and the attention to detail was amazing - central park and the boardwalk! The only time I ever felt I was with 6,000 other cruisers was at the pool on sea days or during breakfast at the Windjammer. Even on sea days, there were chairs available at the pool, although it was hard to find ones in the shade. The biggest issue for me was that the pools themselves were quite crowded - if a pool had a group of people in it drinking and being loud, it wasn't enjoyable to be in the same pool. Something else mentioned frequently are the elevators - there were times when they were slower than I would have liked but for the most part we had no problems and we didn't run into any kids pushing buttons etc. We enjoyed the deck on the aft of deck 11. Very quiet - not too many people seem to know about it yet. A great place to read and relax. There was so much to see and do (I already have a list of things we missed but need to do next time!) Grade A+
Cabin: We had 2 Ocean View Balcony Staterooms - 11206 & 11208 (port side). My husband and I were in one room and our 4 daughters (18, 13, 12 & 10) in the other. Our room attendant was very nice and efficient - rooms were always clean and the girls loved the towel animals he left. He removed the partition on the balcony for us and it made for a very nice space. Having never cruised before, I have nothing to compare to but I thought the rooms were plenty big and very well appointed. The bed was VERY comfortable; there was plenty of closet space/hangers, lots of little cubbies and shelves/drawers to put things away and under the bed storage for luggage. The bathroom was small but had plenty of storage space. Although the shower was small, it was nice having a door that closed as opposed to a curtain and the ledge to put your leg up to shave was nice. The room was great for my husband and I but also was plenty big for the girls and all of their things! We had one room with the bed buy the door and one room with the bed by the closet - for me, I preferred the bed by the door (seemed a bit roomier). Grade - A
Breakfast: We ate breakfast at the Park Cafe, Johnny Rockets, the Windjammer and the MDR. The windjammer was crowded each time - mostly trouble finding a table but no issues getting around the buffets. Did the buffet in the MDR a couple of mornings - not a big selection but a more quiet way to start the day.
Lunch: We ate mostly at the Park Cafe - loved the Roast Beef sandwich and the make your own salads. The Panini's were also yummy. We did do lunch one day in the MDR - very nice and relaxing - and good food! We did hotdogs one day - they were also very good. The girls also really liked Sorrento's.
Dinner: Again, nothing to compare to, but we found the dinners in the MDR to be very nice and the food was quite good (not excellent but good). We all enjoyed dressing for dinner, trying new foods (the kids), and having a leisurely meal. We especially enjoyed the formal nights. We did do dinner at Samba - it was ok but doesn't compare with any of the Brazilian steakhouses we have been to before. We also did Chops - very good. Grade B+ overall / some meals were an A.
Entertainment: We went to every show and loved them all! Chicago was great - really enjoyed it. Oceanaria was amazing - really kept your attention and such talent! The ice show was fantastic - I wasn't expecting such high caliber skaters; really impressive. Blue Planet was beautiful! The Headliner was the Tribute to the Temptations - great show and the guys from Tribute were a lot of fun. The Comedy show was also great (Rondell Sheridan)! We saw the Love and Marriage Show too - funniest thing I've seen in a long time and Allen Brooks was a hoot (he was given A LOT to work with!) Grade - A++
Activities / Kids Clubs: The girls enjoyed the ice skating (be sure to bring socks and long pants), mini golf, the flow rider, rock climbing (a couple of times), and the zip line. Recommendation would be to start trying things early in the week as they get more crowded as the week goes on. My 10 year old really liked the Ocean Adventure Voyagers - the staff was nice, the games were fun and she met a few new friends. More importantly, she enjoyed the freedom of doing her own thing and staying out late (a couple of nights she stayed after 10 for the late night activities and thought that was great - it was worth the additional charge for us.) The 12 & 13 year old spent some time with the Teens 12 - 14 mostly enjoying the scavenger hunt activities. They didn't seem to care for the dances at night. My husband and I enjoyed a couple of the wine tastings at Vintages - very nice. We did not do any of the Dreamworks stuff (hopefully next time). Grade A+
Crew & Service: Everyone we encountered was just wonderful! Captain Johnny was a treat and very funny. Allen Brooks was our cruise director - again very funny and seems to really like his job. We loved all the photo opportunities - especially the formal nights and the gal with the white background taking the barefoot pix. We really liked our room attendant, Everton, as well as several of the servers we encountered - Patty & Khoulman in the MDR, Kumar in the MDR, Roger at Chops and Alan at Vintages. It is amazing how hard everyone on this ship works to make our experience so wonderful. Everything seems to run seamlessly - couldn't believe how they ushered over 6,000 people to the muster drill at one time! Everything had a system and was so organized! Just an amazing crew of dedicated and beautiful people! Grade A++
Labadee: We did the Haitian Cultural Tour. We took a small boat from the dock to a private island. Once there, we had a welcome cocktail and then went on the tour. It is set up to give you a glimpse of Haitian life - seeing how the people live, work and their trades. At the end of the tour, there are a couple of artisans selling their goods. Once we walked through the "village" we were able to spend time on the private beach. The tour is well run and our girls enjoyed it. The only thing that could have made it better was more time on the private beach. Afterwards, we went back to the main area of Labadee and enjoyed the RCI buffet (hamburgers, chicken, ribs, salads & fruit) and some more beach time. Grade A
Falmouth: We did the Heartbeat of Jamaica Tour. We left the ship and went to a waiting area where, after a few of minutes, we got in our van. We took a 20 minute drive to the plantation for the tour. Our tour hosts, Tania & Bernard, were wonderful. We learned all about the Papaya plantation, planted a little papaya seedling, learned about sugar cane and some other things - all while riding an open air covered jitney. Then, we had a tasting of fruit (papaya, mango, jack fruit, pineapple) and jerk chicken followed by rum tasting. A really enjoyable morning - and the opportunity to purchase some Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. Once we got pack to the pier we did some shopping (the vendors are still out on the pier as most of the shops are not open yet). I have to say, we were not hassled by any of the vendors. They did ask you to see what they had but they never got pushy. All in all a good day and once the port is totally up and running it should be even better. Grade A
Cozumel: We hired a driver for the day - Gerry. He picked us up for a 5 hour tour that turned into a 7 hour tour (and he only charged us for the 5 hours!). Very nice guy - personable and knowledgeable. He took us shopping, through town (history of the area), to the ruins, to Punta Sur and El Mirador. We had a wonderful lunch at Playa Bonita and then Gerry took us to Playa Planacar for some beach time and snorkeling. He also saw that one of our girls was into the iguanas so he brought us to this guy that would let us hold his large iguana and take a picture for a dollar - the girls really liked this. After the iguana pictures, the guy came out with a huge bull and wanted to know if wanted pictures on the bull!! We passed! Grade - A
Disembarkation: Again, very easy. We were later getting off (group 60) so we had breakfast in the Windjammer and waited for our number to be called in the Amber Theater. Once we were called, our luggage was ready, the lines moved continually and we were waiting for the Avis shuttle in no time. Grade - A
Summary: This will definitely be the first of many cruises for us. It was more than we could have hoped for! The Allure was an AMAZING beautiful ship with so much to offer. The entertainment was top notch and the crew was fabulous. My only worry is that it will be tough to find something to measure up - so I think next time we will just have to go really different to minimize the chance of having to compare! Over all Grade - A++ Ship / Experience!