We arrived in Fort Lauderdale after a 6 hour drive from Orlando during a tropical storm, which was exciting for all the wrong reasons! You have seen those TV programs on 'storm-chasing', well we were living an episode!!
The trip should have taken no more than 4 hours, but due to the horrendous weather it took longer, after a 9 hour flight from the UK, we were relieved to finally hit Fort Lauderdale, albeit in the midst of a storm instead of the expected glorious sunshine -â€" oh well!
After an ok night at the Westin Beachfront Hotel we boarded the Allure. Embarkation was smooth; bags were outside the cabin by 4pm. Our muster-drill was painless at the Aqua Theatre.
By now the tropical storm had subsided and it was now humid and cloudy- this set the weather pattern for most of the week on the Western route.
We had an ocean view Balcony cabin on Deck 11 which was great and an improvement from our Inside on the Oasis the previous October. So glad we booked this, as it was really nice to sit outside -â€" rain or shine! As mentioned in other reviews, the Allure is so huge it is sometimes difficult to actually find a spot to just watch over the ocean.
We found the cabin to be nicely appointed, I had picked out the location after studying deck plans and it worked out very well (11680). Housekeeping was excellent.
The bathroom is slightly small and I agree with other posters, the sink is way too shallow and water does slop over.
I won't elaborate on the various venues of the ship as these have all been rated and raved about previously, but we love the Oasis/Allure ships, so much thought has gone into the design and layout, there is also so much to do.
We saw all of the shows and parades and thought these were very good; Blue Planet was spectacular. The aqua show was terrific, but I personally thought just a tad too long and repetitious. I would highly recommend making your reservations online as soon (prior to cruise) as you can as there were many folks in the standby line at all the shows.
My fave spot is the Casino, which is huge. I only play slots and donated quite a large amount on this trip. For me the slots were fun, and I like to take a coffee down there on a sea-day prior to dinner and relax. There is a non-smoking side if you were wondering.
We avoided the Windjammer for the most part, but had a late-ish (8:40pm) dinner one night when it was quiet. Food was nice.
We had a MyTime Reservation in the MDR and this worked out well and we were accommodated quickly each night. Our waiter recommended dishes if we were stuck and overall the food was of good quality; hot and appeared without overdue delay. We were never rushed. My only slight negative comment would be on day 6, when it seemed every single member of wait-staff from the water/wine chap to the Head Waiter paid our table a visit. This was to tell us it had been a pleasure to have has us there and to encourage us to leave good feedback on the comment card that had been left in our room prior to cruise end. Just amusing really. As we had pre-paid our grats, this would have made no difference to us, but if we hadn't (paid grats upfront) may have construed these over-zealous visits to ensure grats were incoming!
For lunch, the best option is the MDR (sea days only) where they set up a quick Bistro style dining service. They have a good main and dessert choice, but the best part (for us!) was the Tuti salad bar where you can choose items and have these prepped with toppings and dressings -â€" wonderful!
We had been recommended to eat at Izumi, (Asian upcharge dining). The food was good, we had the self-cook hot rock option. However, although I have a small appetite, the portions were tiny, not man-size at all! I think this venue would be suited to larger groups. As we only had a table for 2, the atmosphere felt reserved. Not sure if I would bother to book there again.
We felt the Starbucks coffee had the slight edge over the Seattle's Best concession! We are big coffee drinkers and so this is our daily treat (several times). We also enjoyed the complimentary coffee from Cafe Promenade, Park Cafe and Boardwalk (by ice cream stand) but it varied daily. One day weak, then strong then soapy!
Park Cafe -â€" Roast beef ravings -â€" spot on. Great place for lunch.
We always checked the electronic information board before choosing our breakfast/lunch venues and this was quite accurate with regards to crowd levels. I would urge you do this this -â€" fantastic technology; a great help.
Ports of call:
Labadee -â€" cloudy and some rain on our port visit. We did the Dragon's Breath Coaster which was fun. Relaxed on the beach and enjoyed the RCI BBQ. Food was nice, not great, but certainly adequate and plentiful. I am sure this little tropical beach haven would be better with the sun shining.
Falmouth -â€" we didn't expect a lot here but actually, it was better than anticipated. We basked in the one day of sunshine. We took the open trolley-bus tour around some of the island, did a 10 minute stop at an old church. The overall trip was around 40 minutes, which was refreshing and gave a brief snapshot of Jamaican life. Everyone seemed to be smiling! We shopped within the Port confines and overall it was a pleasant day.
Cozumel -â€" We arrived to drizzle which then turned to heavy downpour. We had booked an excursion by XTrail tours, (via the ship) which was a ride into the jungle on dune buggies (self-driven) and a stop off at the Jade Caverns. We learned Cozumel had had a lot of rain recently, so our trip was on bumpy, puddle filled dirt tracks. We knew we would get dirty, but we actually got absolutely drenched with mud. This was great fun for the first part of the trip, but on the way back, after a dip in the Jade caverns, or should that be brown caverns, we were getting cold and mozzie bitten. A great tour if the weather had been better. If you do this, make sure you take a clean set of clothes and any clothes you do take, realise that they will be virtually ruined!
Interactive TV :
We didn't turn on the TV much on our Oasis cruise last year, and actually this warrants a mention as we missed out on a lot of stuff! This time, we learned our lesson. As well as having 35 programme/movie channels, you can access your live 'billing' and track onboard spend. We also liked the 'ports of call' features and the daily blog with Captain Zini, which was very informative and concluded with a weather update.
Also, some of the shows -â€" Love & Marriage, Belly-flop are recorded and shown on the TV, so this is good to see if you missed them.
You can make dinner reservations too.
Overall all staff we met were enthusiastic and courteous. Never had a problem with anyone.
Not sure about Ken Rush, or 'work-shy Ken' as we dubbed him! Richard Spacey was our Cruise Director on the Oasis. To be honest, having cruised RCI before, we liked the personalities of the CD's but they didn't make or break our cruise, that is, until we experienced Richard, (who was one of the stars on the Oasis).
So we had high hopes in enjoying the Belly-flop, Sexiest Man, Quest, Love & Marriage with a funny CD. MMmmmmm not quite so. Ken didn't appear at all of the events and seemed a bit jaded. His 2IC hosted quite a lot and Ken made a point at the 'Captains Corner' to mention his aim was to break into TV -â€" any takers out there etc.
We had an amazing time on the Allure, bench-marked by our Oasis trip a year earlier. Comparing the ships, RCI have made some tweaks for the better on the Allure. I'm not sure which cruise I liked the best. Richard Spacey's presence was sadly missed this time. This is one amazing and beautiful ship. The artwork and
small touches that are so easily over-looked only add to her magnificence.
I like the Vegas. Disney-esque, OTT ambience of this ship and I realise that this won't appeal to everyone. Having taken our son and his friend last year (teens) this ship is perfect for families. It may be too hectic for some folks as you really have to look hard for a space to find some solitude, or a sea breeze and a view.
Trouble is, where you go after the Allure? For us, she has definitely proved that bigger is better!