I just finished a week on the Allure with a group of 4 adults (age 31-38) with no kids. We are seasoned cruisers, with 2 of us Diamond members and 2 Diamond Plus. We live in South FL, so no hotels or flights. This cruise was all about the ship for us, since we've been to these ports many times in the past.
We made sure to make reservations for all the shows online before we got to the boat. This saved us a lot of time on the first day, when everyone else waited in line to get reservations. We also reserved 2 specialty restaurants ahead of time to make sure they were not full. A few other tips for first time cruisers..bring your own water and soda. Even if you have to stop in a taxi at a gas station on the way to the port, you'll save a lot of money this way. As long as it is non-alcoholic, you can bring it on board.
Embarkation was very smooth. We arrived around 11am and were on the ship eating by 11:30. We skipped the Windjammer during the day, as it is overcrowded most of the time. We headed straight for Park Cafe. They have delicious salads, panini's, and the best roast beef sandwich (I ate one 5 out of 7 days onboard!). We walked around the ship, exploring Central Park, Boardwalk, and the Promenade. We hit the zip line to avoid the long lines on the sea days. It was a fun experience, but it's over too quick! Don't forget to look down at the Boardwalk ?
We usually spend sea days inside, staying out of the heat. We usually participate in trivia or bring our own playing cards to relax in the concierge lounge. We use the port days to let everyone else off the boat, and enjoy limited lines for the flowrider and get the jacuzzi's and pools to ourselves (they are overloaded on sea days).
Make sure you arrive early to the shows (about 20 min before showtime) to get a seat. Around 10 minutes before, they let in the people without reservations. So if you have a reservation and get there late, you may not get a seat. We enjoyed the Ocean Aria show the best. The high diving was incredible. Chicago is the same as the Broadway production; lot of singing. If you're not into that..skip it! Everyone kept talking about Blue Planet. It had a lot less acrobatics than we expected. If Matt Yee is in the Schooner Bar you MUST go see his show. We saw him on the Mariner a few years ago and enjoyed his show again this trip. He's hilarious!! We really enjoyed the ice shows. They have 1 based on How to Train Your Dragon and one based on the game Monopoly. Both were very enjoyable.
We don't go to the main dining room anymore; it takes too long and we don't like to sit with strangers. Plus, there's actually a cover charge if you think about it...$7 a day for tips. When you go to the specialty restaurant, tip is already included in the price. We save money by going to the Windjammer or ordering room service a few nights and use those savings to go to the specialty places. The Windjammer is more limited on this ship. They did not have any free sushi (they want you to buy it at the Japanese specialty place) and they did not have a request section. On other ships, they have a made to order area that changes each night, including pasta, stir fry and risotto. Giovanni's was great Italian food. They had the most delicious vinegar to dip your bread in..I even put it on my steak. We also went to Samba grill (Brazilian steakhouse). It was pretty good. It had a very nice ambience and 9 types of meat. Some of them were pretty dry. I tried a bite or two of each, and then asked for more of the ones I actually liked. My friend ate all of each and felt sick afterwards because it was just too much food. We wanted to do the Fiesta at Rita's Cantina, but waited too long. They only have it on 3 nights during the week. The prices were a little confusing from other reviews. It is $3 service charge with a la carte pricing except during the 3 fiesta nights when it is $10 including dinner and nonalcoholic drinks or $20 including alcohol margaritas. If we go again, I'd like to do the fiesta.
I decided to snorkel in Labadee and was glad I did. I did the snorkel safari. Conrad and his team were very pleasant and funny. Lots of people on the tour, but they had someone in the water essentially bringing you on a tour through the reef and pointing out the wildlife. It kept people from aimlessly swimming around and made it an enjoyable experience. Make sure you try the free rum punch on the way back to the port.
We briefly got off the ship in Falmouth to explore the new area that is still under construction. It was a nice little area with shops and a few food vendors. We did not venture outside the fenced in area. We have had some bad experiences with people hassling you to buy stuff. If you have never been to Jamaica, I highly recommend the tour to Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios or tubing the river. We enjoyed those excursions in the past. Since Falmouth is so far from the other ports where the activities are, I'd stay with a ship excursion. We have booked outside tours in other ports, but I prefer the safety of the ship groups in Jamaica.
Allure docks at the International Pier in Cozumel, which is a few miles from downtown. We've had good luck in the past renting a car at the pier and exploring the beaches on our own. Our favorite spot is Punta Sur, which is a park with a lighthouse and nice beach with decent snorkeling. There's not much to see in the port itself, just souvenirs and jewelry. If you don't book a tour, and don't want to shop, stay on the ship. The Tulum ruins trip and sea turtle snorkeling trip through the boat are 2 other nice trips. The main drawback is that you have to take a 45 minute, rough/choppy speed ferry ride to get to Playa del Carmen. If you get motion sick, this option is not for you. One of my friends got sick both times, and has sworn off any excursion involving the ferry.
The ship was the real reason we went on the trip and it did not disappoint. It was so nice to have so many venues to explore and activities to enjoy. The zip line and flowrider are a lot of fun. The Promenade is a great place to people watch and the Move It Parade was so much fun. We loved having so much access to the Dreamworks characters for pictures. The Rising Tide Bar is fun if you have a party group on board. Accessing your pictures is so much easier. They have computer kiosks and folders with your prints, sorted using face recognition software.
Debarkation from the ship itself was easy, but customs held things up. They do not have enough agents. We were stuck in a warehouse full of grouchy passengers who had been stuck in there for a while. We usually get off the ship late (around 10am) to avoid this problem. Just be prepared that when you get off, you may have to wait a while to get downstairs to customs.
We loved the Allure and can't wait to sail her again. It is more pricey than other ships, but makes up for it with unique venues and entertainment.