I just returned home yesterday from a 7-night spectacular on the Allure of the Seas. First let me give some pointers before going into my review:
1) If you didn't lock your suitcase for air travel as TSA requires, lock it with a combination lock before leaving it with the ship for delivery to your cabin. My larger suitcase was locked, but not my carry-on which only contained clothes from the night before and odds and ends. No valuables were inside. However, sometime between the time the bag was left at the port and delivered to the cabin, someone had gone into it! How do I know? Someone else's black and red underpants were in the bag!! I'm not making this up. This has happened once before on a Princess cruise only I had a small, standard suitcase lock that had been removed and placed in an outer flap along with a key ring with numerous small lock keys. Obviously unlocked bags and bags with standard suitcase locks are being rifled through before delivery to cabins.
2) You are allowed to bring bottled water/soda on board as long as they have not been previously opened. However space in the refrigerator is limited as it has minibar items inside.
3) The 32" flat screen tv does have AV jacks (cruise line said it didn't) if you want to bring a DVD player.
4) The is a free movie channel and a PAY channel. Movies are $12 on the pay channel. Make sure your kids are aware of this before you end up at guest services as one lady did. She didn't know her kids ordered several movies!
5) Taxi from FLL is $16.00 (includes airport charge) and $12.60 from cruise line to airport. Ride is no more than 10 minutes - very quick and close!
6)IMPORTANT! People please! Do NOT reach into buffet plates/trays with your hands!! That's why there are tongs in front of the dish. Also, don't sneeze into your hands and reach for tongs afterwards! Use hand sanitizer AGAIN if you have to sneeze. When people get sick on ships, it's not necessarily the ships fault - it's the people who use absolutely no common sense or think they're at home and can reach with bare hands into food trays....
7) Take your formal night photos between 10-11pm if you can. Lines are very short or none at all. Early evening lines are very long...
Now for my review:
I had a balcony overlooking the boardwalk (five cabins from the back end of ship). It was great! I could see everything going on at the Aqua Theatre, a water view, view of the large screens (hey sports fans - they played NCAA and the cowboys games on it!), and all the action of the boardwalk. At first I was concerned about noise but the sliding glass door, once locked), seals out almost all the noise. I used my balcony more than any other cruise - even had breakfast out there most mornings while people watching or watching shows or movies shown at night. It was also very spacious as it was shaped like a bay window instead of the standard rectangular shape. The cabin was spacious enough with plenty of storage. There were several plugs which are usually almost non-existent in cruise cabins! The bathroom light goes to a nightlight status which is great for that late night "run" and you don't want to jar someone awake with a light coming on.
The ships public areas are outstanding! Clean, spacious - like a floating mall. There is something for everyone. It is equally adult and children oriented. There is a separate pool area for kids with a water park theme. Basically, there is NO REASON children should be in the adult pool! The kids area is quite large. There is also numerous kids activities, areas, ice skating rink with shows as well as Dreamworks character appearances. Plus the boardwalk. I think more adults used the carousel than the kids! For adults, a pub-style bar, sports bar with the games broadcast (as well as at the large screens at the Aqua Theatre), nightclub that's adults only, comedy club with headline entertainment (not ship comedians!), and numerous other areas with live entertainment for dancing, etc. There is no reason a person can't find something to do - the Cruise Compass is packed with activities!! A great fitness track around the ship as well.
Food: The most important thing on a cruise. Dinner in the main dining room was superb! My only complaint is, on the daily standard options, the steak is the size of a hamburger patty! I was surprised by this as I've always seen a "steak" when I've had to order this for dinner. The last night NY Strip was a featured item and it was a whole steak. Lobster night was great - you got a whole lobster tail and not a half like some lines are doing now. Service was outstanding a very customer satisfaction oriented! The cheesecake for dessert one night tasted like it was made from scratch and not a mix. Buffet: lackluster in the Windjammer! Nothing to rave about here.
We ate at a couple of specialty restaurants: Johnny Rockets (breakfast is FREE every morning) and the Samba grill. The Samba grill was good but I wasn't "wowed" by it. Perhaps it was because I told the waiter about the guy eating off the salad/appetizer buffet with his bare hands and sticking them in his mouth! I pointed out to the waiter the dish he ate out of - the waiter played dumb! He didn't attempt to have the dish removed, just walk up the where I told him, looked around and brushed it off! Meats were juicy but completely unseasoned. The ship did, however, do a wonderful job transforming the Solarium into an intimate dining venue for this "restaurant".
Embarkation was quick - less than 15 minutes and debarkation wasn't bad. We were in group 10. Due to what they said was weather related problems, instead of our group being called at 7:35am, we didn't disembark until 8:25am. We still had plenty of time to make our 11:27am flight. Once into the customs area, your bags are by group number and out the door! Taxis are waiting with trunks open. We were at the airport by 9:00.
We didn't feel nickel and dimed on this cruise as others have stated. You pay what you want to pay. Look carefully at the Cruise compass for those times when the specialty restaurants are free - most being at breakfast but at least you can say you ate there!
Can't wait to do the Oasis! Even with over 5000 people, we never felt crowded. Debarkation/embarkation for excursions was quick. I will note: the excursion for St. Maarten, Magical Hightlights, is not worth $89!! Get a taxi driver to drive you around. Basically that's what we got as an excursion - nothing magical. Your best shopping is on the Dutch side, not the French.