Hello all! Just returned from a 7-day'er on RC's Allure to Haiti, Jamaica and Cozumel. Before this one, my wife & I had only been on Carnival's Jubilee in 1997 and RC's Freedom of the Seas in 2009- so not much comparison to draw from, but it's a little at least. I must admit right up front, our group unilaterally felt that we enjoyed the Freedom of the Seas *more* than the Allure. To sum it up as best that I can, we all just felt that the Allure is so big that some ability has been lost in keeping the passengers actively engaged in activities while on board. Does that make sense? Obviously, with a ship that size the venues are really spread out between decks from bow to stern, and we just felt like there was a lot of *searching* for entertainment hot spots rather than being able to just kind of walk around and stumble into them. The Cruise Compass is a must in this regard or otherwise you would not even know some of the entertainment is taking place (Dazzles, the Viking Lounge, etc.). We also found that some of the karaoke & music trivia entertainment was very brief and was even cut short once due to the lack of attendance.
The ship itself is absolutely stunning and the food choices are plentiful (we only ate in the dining room on 3 nights). The shops were nice to browse through, but some of the shop staff was border line pleasant and displayed a demeanor indicating that they were growing tired of their daily duties. A person in our group encountered an issue with a purchase and was treated very poorly by the shop manager (perfumery). It resulted in filing a complaint with guest services who promptly and courteously remedied the issue without delay. A picture says a thousand words, and reading the faces of some of the shop staff did exactly that- they all look very tired. I reckon I would too after serving people during a non-stop, 7 month work contract.
The pool deck seemed to be THE place to be while at sea, and we took full advantage of the Flow Riders, Zip Line and Rock Climbing Walls- what a blast! Having the Park Cafe, Boardwalk Cafe, and the Solarium Bistro made for EXCELLENT alternatives for breakfast (in lieu of the always crowded Wind Jammer Cafe). RC is VERY generous with their drink alcohol content, and 2 drinks can go a long way! The Hotdog Stand serves genuine German Bratwurst to die for (among other types of dogs to your delight). And of course RC always delivers with their "Mudslide Cookies" at the Boardwalk Cafe (affectionately referred to by me as "crack" cookies).
The Shows: Blue Planet- we all kind of walked away with a mixed opinion of "What on earth was that?" to complete amazement at the opening scene with the "living tree" and the ending scene with the trampoline acrobatics. It's just a very confusing story line that begins with mother earth, morphs into some weird type of love story between two singers, and then wraps up with a Cirque de Sole feel.
Chicago- very entertaining and VERY good talent; but you must like the Broadway type of music & show or you may find yourself kind of floating in/out from paying attention. There is a funny surprise at the end if you didn't catch it early on.......and then you're really impressed by a particular singer's ability! (Shssssshhh.....don't want to ruin it for others).
Headliner Act- An Acapella group called the "Unexpected Boys" catering to the music of the 50's & 60's. Simply outstanding and masterful at engaging their audience- enough said.
Aquarius Dive Show- An AMAZING blend of talent!
Outdoor Fountain Show- A nice touch and relaxing way to wind down an evening.
The double outdoor screens are also used to play movies on select nights, and it was great to just plop down in a seat, grab a drink, and enjoy some mindless entertainment. They play the movie Grease with an integrated karaoke version that allows the crowd to sing a long- really fun! They also played the movie Burlesque which we would never have paid to see, but WOW!- it was unexpectedly good!
The casino leaves a lot to be desired compared to the Freedom's. Pretty much 98% of all games are electronic now with only the Blackjack tables having real cards and dealers. Even Roulette and Poker is electronic with no dealers present. I overheard one of the staff telling a guest that RC simply does not have the staff to support real dealers anymore and that no one is happy about it. It certainly curtailed my desire to gamble since I tend to distrust the electronics versus a live person dealing a deck.
The stateroom had plenty of room and everything we needed. Our attendant removed the couch table from the room on day 1 which was perfect for us. I don't mean to offend, but I must warn that if you're a little on the heavy side (300+) you may find the circular showers to be a little cumbersome. Without question, we observed some guests that we knew were not physically able to step into the standard stateroom showers. I have no idea what their solution was.
The quality of the Wind Jammer and main dining room food was spectacular and never left anything to be desired (for us anyway). Overall, it was a very nice cruise but we will not sail on the Allure (or the Oasis) in the future. The Freedom class contains the atmosphere that appeals to us instead. Apparently though, RC is releasing another class of ship in 2014 that is going to be comparable to the Freedom class size, but they are very tight lipped about the details.