Having never cruised before my husband and I figured if we don't like it and only go once we want to mark something of the bucket list in the process and chose the biggest and newest ship, Allure of the Seas, and sailed the Eastern Caribbean Sept. 4-11. A sold out cruise with 6,300 guests and 2,100 crew members.
Our expectations of embarkation were high as everyone on the boards touts the smooth process and we were not disappointed. We headed over to the Port around 10:30 am from the Renaissance Ft. Lauderdale Cruise Port Hotel after a terrible night sleep on the most uncomfortable beds ever and were anxious to get on the ship. The process was amazingly smooth as promised.
We were amazed by the ship! The Allure is truly spectacular, so clean, so beautiful and so HUGE! We loved exploring while waiting for our cabin and while it was a bit overwhelming, I kept struggling with my huge paper map, we finally just let it go and wandered around with a surprise around every corner. Our cabin was ready just after 1:00 pm and our luggage arrived shortly after we arrived in our mid-ship, deck ten, oceanfront balcony stateroom.
The stateroom was much nicer than I anticipated. We felt like we had plenty of room to move about, plenty of storage for our luggage under our bed and we were able to get everything hung in the closet or put away on the many shelves, little drawers and cubby spaces. The room and bathroom were very clean and the lighting, colors and overall comfort was excellent. The balcony was nice, with a nice table and 2 chairs. We are non-smokers and I was worried about not being able to use the balcony if lots of folks were out smoking but we never smelled smoke once. I actually never saw anyone on their balcony other than pulling into or out of ports!
We dined in almost every possible place on the Allure and were very pleased with all the specialty restaurants but thought the main dining room and Windjammer were truly horrible. We ate in specialty restaurants 4 nights.
Central Park 150 was excellent. Amazing food and great service. The tasting menu was fun but lots of food. Don't eat too much of the bread and fabulous salts from around the world or you will not be able to finish all the food! We loved buying a bottle of wine here and having it follow us to the different restaurants each night until we finished it off.
Izumi was excellent although the service was slow and disorganized. The host was excellent, filling in when our server disappeared. Although our server was dealing with a particularly obnoxious and demanding table so I don't fault him. My husband loved the sushi and I enjoyed tempura and the hot rock.
Giovanni's was definitely our favorite. Food was just amazing and service was equally amazing. I had the tuna fillet, husband had the sea bass I believe and we shared the risotto. Chops was also excellent. I don't eat red meat but my husband enjoyed his fillet and I enjoyed outstanding shrimp cocktail and barramundi.
We were scheduled to eat in the Main Dining Room 3 times but only made it twice as the food was so poor. We did My Time Dining and, as many have noted before, the atmosphere was horrible. I felt like we got all dressed up to go to sit in a really beautiful dining room and be herded like cows through the dining process. The servers were as good as they could possible be under the conditions they work under. Trying to feed that many people with quality food and good service has got to be impossible. The food really tasted like hospital food and it was brought to you on plates with brown plastic covers very similar to your local hospital cafeteria. The food was over salted, over cooked and just plain yuck. We went twice, hoping the first night quality was just an anomaly, and couldn't finish our food either night it was so poor. If we go on the Allure again, WE WILL NOT EAT IN THE MAIN DINING ROOM. In fact, the third night we were scheduled to go to the dining room, we just snacked around the ship instead.
Walked into Windjammer once, tried to eat lunch, ate a few bites and left. Truly awful.
We enjoyed Rita's Cantina for lunch. It was similar to your local chain Mexican restaurant and tasted even better with a margarita. My husband thought his chicken fajitas were excellent and service was friendly. We ate way too much at Johnny Rockets for lunch another day. I had the turkey burger, which was very yummy and enjoyed eating french fries and onion rings and splurging on a Diet Coke. Which I think is ridiculous you have to pay for soda after spending almost $4,000 on a stateroom. Which is one of my other complaints. Very difficult to find ice tea to drink which I drink constantly! I was always having to make my own by brewing hot tea and pouring over a glass of ice. The only drinks included in your cruise are tap water (no thank you), coffee, hot tea and some strange "fruit flavored" water. Which tasted like watered down kool-aid. One of the biggest line items on my bill was bottled water!
The Solarium Bistro was good for some healthy alternatives. We ate breakfast one morning and lunch one afternoon and enjoyed. We ate a piece of pizza from Sorrentos the day we boarded which was fine if you are really hungry, didn't make it back during the week. My husband loved the roast beef sandwiches at Central Park Cafe. We ate there for breakfast one morning and lunch a couple days. However, it was always a challenge to find a seat there! We ate egg salad sandwiches at Cafe Promenade on boarding day which were very good but never made it back there. And had room service breakfast several mornings to eat on our balcony. Food was good. Scrambled eggs are a bit weird?? Too processed, but watching the ocean and eating makes everything taste fine.
The Boardwalk dog house was especially yummy. I had the chicken sausage with sauerkraut twice and really enjoyed the great bakery style bun. Had one donut from the donut shop, okay but not worth the calories and a few scoops of ice cream during the week which was good. We did not make it into Vintages, although it looked nice or Samba, too much meat.
The desserts at Central Park 150, Giovannis and Chops were all excellent. The Tiramisu at Giovannis was the best I have ever had and I am Sicilian. The other desserts on the ship were blah and not worth the calories.
We loved Blue Planet and Chicago. Just fabulous performances! Oceanaria was so unique and so fun. Crazy, scary diving and acrobatics. Really amazing. Ice Games was good but we didn't care for the whole monopoly thing. The skating was fabulous but the monopoly dice throwing was just goofy. How to Train your Dragon ice show was cute and my kids would have loved.
My husband didn't like the Royal Promenade because it was always so crowded. The pool areas are also very crowded although you could always find a chair it was just a sea of people. But what to you expect with 6,300 people on the same boat. We loved Central Park and the Boardwalk area. Loved deck 11 aft and deck 14 forward for some quite reading and watching the ocean. Deck 5 track was really nice and always very quiet walking. Loved the fitness center although I only made it once. Husband enjoyed a haircut, shave and facial at the spa although they tried to sell him $450.00 worth of product.
As far as the ports--- Nassau was horrible, dirty, traffic and exhaust laden. I wouldn't get off the ship again without some sort of excursion. St. Thomas was fun, we did Sapphire Beach excursion, beautiful. The island is very poor and shocking if you haven't been before. Loved St. Maarten. Fabulous kayaking and snorkeling excursion. Enjoyed very much.
Photos they take are great souvenirs. Don't forget to get photos taken every night and on port days so you have lots to choose from. Really great quality!
Overall, loved the ship. I think all cruisers should experience it at least once. Loved the specialty food. Main dining and windjammer really need improvement. Loved our cabin, activities and shows. We are planning on taking the kids next time and trying the Oasis but then we will probably be done with the big ships. As new cruisers, we want to see what the smaller ships are like. Only other complaint is all the extra expense. We spent so much more than we ever thought with shore excursions, bottled water, a few diet cokes, specialty restaurant and a la cart fees.