On September 25, 2011, my family of ten (79, 55, 54, 43, 42, 35, 33, 30, 28 (& pregnant)and 27)sailed on the Allure of the Seas. We left Ft. Lauderdale and it was showering but warm and then the sun came out and it was sunny and warm for the next 7 days. The seas were like glass. The captain said he had never seen the Caribbean so calm. The ship is huge, but it didn't really feel that way. The venues are a little cozier than on the Adventure of the Seas and the Freedom of the Seas, which we had sailed on before. We had almost 5,800 guests on board and it was not crowded and you could always find a corner of the ship that was deserted and private. We had a drink one afternoon in the bar overlooking the pool area and we were the only ones in there except for a scuba class over in the corner. I was in a hot tub (even the cantilevered one) by myself many times during the week. The pools were crowded, of course, but that was the only time we really realized how many people were on the ship. There was not an issue with lounge chairs as there was on the Freedom either. One point about our stateroom. We had six rooms, five of them next to each other and we had our cabin attendant open our balconies so we could walk from one to another. That was great. We could walk out there and see who was up (when we got up, we each opened our curtains so you could tell) or have a big group out on one balcony. We overlooked Central Park. We also had our cabin attendant empty the mini-bar on day one and we used it as a small fridge for our own stuff.
The ports were great. Labadee, which was a favorite of mine a couple years ago on the Freedom, was beautiful, but I HATED the way you had to walk by the Haitian vendors who would hollar at you and harrass you as you walked by. I liked the way it was your choice to subject yourself to that before. Now, you can't avoid it if you go to Columbus Cove. All of us women felt uncomfortable by this. We never even looked at what they were selling because of this, although we would have bought things had it been different. The water was great, the sand fine and soft and the food the ship brought on the island was satisfying and overall a very good day. It was fun at Columbus Cove that the ship was parked right out in the water in front of you, so all of our pictures of each other in the water had the ship in the background. My husband and daughter did the zip line and loved it.
Next stop, Falmouth, Jamaica. We had decided to not get off the ship because most of us had been to Jamaica before and felt that it was not someplace we wanted to go again (because of the reason we didn't like Labadee above). The Jamaicans can be very pushy and rude. What we found in Falmouth was a very different scene. The vendors were very polite, they had great things to sell and they bargained with you, but very respectfully and non-pushy. We actually spent several hours wandering the shops and stalls looking at the handicrafts and jewelry and we bought a lot of nice things. My husband, daughter and son-in-law went past the gate to the "real" Jamaica and said it was as we remembered it; very poor, pushy vendors, but great food in a little hole-in-the-wall they found. I was happy to have stayed in the cruise port. So, if you want authentic, wander away from the port, if you want a relaxed shopping experience, stay in the port area.
Our last stop was Cozumel. We had a fantastic day. It was our second time to Cozumel and our second time to Nachi Cocom, which I booked on my own. It is a private beach club on a beautiful white sand beach. A four course lunch is included as well as all you can drink alcohol. It is $40 for the day and you get a lounge chair, umbrella, large pool, hot tub and the beautiful beach area and all you can eat and drink. I think there were about 40 or 45 people total there that day and were were 10 of them. We also spent $38 to go on the snorkel trip and it was fantastic snorkeling. My dad didn't want to snorkel and he had a massage on the beach for $40. I would highly recommend this excursion to anyone.
The shows on the ship were very good, although the opinion of most of the group was that they liked the Chicago show the least. The water show is fantastic. Blue Planet was also quite good. We went to the Samba Grill one evening and it was very good, although you need to be very hungry to get your money's worth. It is a lot of meat. We had been to something similar in Brazil and knew what we were getting. The Windjammer was good but smaller than on the other ships we had been on. I guess that was to force you to go to other venues. The service and food were very good in the main dining room. We were not very impressed with the dining room layout compared to the other two ships. We really loved the grand scale and design of the dining rooms before and on this ship, there is no grand staircase and we were in the Melody room which was off to the side and we could only see a handful of other tables. You felt like you were in a very small restaurant instead of the grand room we were in before. The waiters said our area was preferred, but we really didn't think so. The other areas of the ship we enjoyed: Boardwalk and the aqua theater area were fun. Rita's was a really fun and delicious place to have lunch. Central Park was great. It was beautiful at night. We even had birds in the Park and on our balcony! The theater was very nice and as expected. Things we were not as impressed with: the main dining room, the size of the Windjammer and I wish Royal Caribbean would pay their people a fair wage and add that to the price of the cruise instead of the tip thing. We spent half the afternoon on the last day trying to track down our vouchers for our pre-paid tips. We ended up having to go all the way back from the dining room to our rooms to finally get the last of them before dinner was over. I don't like the feeling that if I don't give my fair share and then some that some poor waiter will not be able to support his family. I think in many cultures tipping is not expected and I feel like we need to do extra to make up for that. Why can't they just pay them a better wage?
All in all, it was a fantastic trip on a luxurious ship. Two of our cruisers had never been on a cruise and were very impressed. I think we have become a little critical as you have your favorite things on certain ships and you tend to compare them against each other. I would put the dining room of the Freedom on the Allure and it would be perfect. We can't wait to do it again and have already decided that we are going to do a Mediterranean cruise in 2015.