The embarkation was - hands down - the easiest and most organized embarkation I've ever experienced. But then again, it has to be: otherwise, it would've been the biggest disaster. Smooth, smooth, smooth.
I've been on Oasis and walking onto Allure was like coming home! The promenade is amazing and the red mercedes is still there next to the Rising Tide Bar. The Cupcake Cupboard with it's overpriced dry cupcakes is there, too. But just as there are similarities, there are differences. Gone is Oasis's Seafood Shack (now it's Rita's Cantina). say bye-bye to Solarium Bistro and say hello to the amazing Samba Grill! But the biggest replacement is also the biggest disappointment: "Chicago" is the on-board show on Allure where "Hairspray" is on Oasis. I couldn't get enough of "Hairspray". It's an upbeat, on-your-feet fun, family-oriented musical, whereas "Chicago" was a depressing, R-rated, musical about murder that had people walking out if they weren't snoring in their seats. It is advertised on the ship as being "rated R" and yet there were kids throughout the audience. The staff did nothing to keep them out. My recommendation is that RCCL replaces "Chicago" with a more fun, family sing-a-long musical like "Mamma Mia".
As far as the other shows on the ship, OceanAria at the Aqua Theater is amazing. Just sitting there, it's hard to imagine you are on a ship watching the divers and acrobats do what they are doing. Do NOT miss Blue Planet. Sensational. I've already said my peace about "Chicago". The headliners were the Nelson Brothers. Again. yawn. The Comedy Show's 2nd guy, Phil Tag, was hilarious but the first guy was forgettable. "Ice Games" was good and the guest performers were breathtaking. Always makes me nervous to see the guy swing the girl in a circle with her ponytail hitting the ice. We love the "Love and Marriage Show" but the Quest (always one of my favorite things to do) was at 11:45pm and we were exhausted from the day, so we skipped it.
Allan Brooks was our Cruise Director and I have had him before on sailings and he is one of the best out there. He really makes everything so much better and funnier. In fact, the staff on Allure are all the best of the best and it shows.
Our ports were Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Because of Irene, we skipped the Bahamas, giving us more sea days and went straight to St. Thomas. We did hit the Bahamas on the way back which, in my opinion, turned out to be the better itinerary because of the extended sea days at the beginning of the trip.
Excursions: In St Thomas, we did the "St. John Beach & Snorkel Tour". The ride over to St. John on the "Island Girl" boat was exhilarating and scary. I really thought we were going to capsize in the rough waters at that high speed but we finally made it. We then boarded an open air bus and toured St. John and stopped at the overlooks to Caneel Bay and Hawksnest Bay on our way to the beautiful Trunk Bay where we snorkeled on the marked trail. Sting rays decided to swim with us, too. Unscheduled. Yikes. This was a fun excursion and a great way to see some of the more beautiful bays in St. John.
In St. Maarten, we did the "AquaBoat and Jeep Adventure". What a blast! We got in a two-man dingy with a 25 HP motor that we drove all around the outskirts of the island for 2 hours in a convoy; zipping around the harbor looking at the bays and houses and yachts and mountains of St. Maarten! It was amazing and the water was beautiful. Then we got into our 4-man, brand new Jeep Wranglers and drove all over St. Maarten, stopping at Maho Beach for a drink (this is the famous beach on YouTube where the jet blasts from the nearby airport can knock you off your feet and jets coming in for a landing are 50 feet over your head). We stopped at Palm Beach for a lunch (not included) before heading back to the port. This excursion was extremely organized and we were never left unattended and it was well worth the money. Definitely a highlight!
We didn't do any excursion in the Bahamas but instead, went out on our own. Unfortunately, it rained so we didn't stay out long, but we still had a blast!
Captain Zini kept all of us informed every day about the hurricane and had only our safety in mind. I never felt unsafe or threatened by the storm. At one point, we were in 3-4 meter waves (9-12 feet) but felt absolutely nothing. If we were in a smaller ship, it would've been a different story, but the Allure kept us secure.
And getting off the ship?? AMAZING! The new number system RCCL uses on these mega ships is perfect! In the past, I was used to having luggage tags of a certain color. Then I would be called off the ship in order of color and then have to search for my luggage in the sea of Samsonite by tag color. Lucky if I had my luggage an hour later. NOW, all tags are numbered. I was number 36. So we waited in the dining room until our number was called. And literally, when they called our number, we walked off the ship, to the luggage room, found the pole with "36" on it, found our luggage immediately, walked to customs, handed them our form, kept walking, outside, and was in a cab - all within 8 minutes. This is a ship with 5,400 passengers and twice as much luggage! 8 minutes! I've never seen anything like it. Very impressed.
If you haven't been on Oasis or Allure, you should, if only to marvel at what you are seeing. "I can't believe we're on a ship!" was the most heard phrase of the week. I think it's overpriced, but you get what you pay for. And on Allure - you get a lot!