I flew in from Las Vegas on a thursday morning on Spirit Airlines (good experience overall). I pricelined the Westin FTL (very near the port) and stayed for 3 nights before my 10/23 sailing. Excellent hotel, great location right across from the beach.
Embarkation wasn't as much of a breeze as I expected but that's because I arrived at the port during a peak time - around 11am. After a short delay at the security checkpoint (always remember to get rid of the water bottles!), I was checked in and heading towards the gangway. Once across the threshold and into the Promenade, I was completely speechless. Everything that has ever been said about these ships is true but it still doesn't prepare you for the size and the beauty. Beyond that, the ship is a masterpiece of engineering: I NEVER felt like I was on such a huge ship due to the neighborhood concept. Crowding was never a problem - just avoid the Windjammer and use the stairs when possible. Allure had the entire Port Everglades to itself so we sailed out right on time....the weather was perfect. Navigating around the ship couldnt be easier....great signage and of course those amazing touchscreens that literally show you the way.
Now to the most important things....food and entertainment. I had vowed to avoid the MDR for the entire cruise so I could sampe as many specialty restaurants as possible. I should say I am most definitely NOT a food snob and have enjoyed RCCL MDR'S in the past (Mariner most recently, also Monarch). BUT if you cruise Allure or Oasis, why not take advantage of the quality and variety?! So many people did not on my cruise....it was their loss. Here goes: Rita's fiesta was tons of fun (great drinks, very good food), Izumi was very good (excellent sushi), Chops Grille was AMAZING and was my favorite meal, 150 Central was mostly very good but I wouldn't do it again (too stuffy), Vintagas Tapas turned out to be one of my favorite meals, Giovanni's was excellent, and to top it all off, the Samba Grille on the final night...also, excellent. If you can eat outside at any of the Central Park venues, do it! It was an experience not to be missed. The Park Cafe was great for salads and sandwiches, Solarium Bistro had very good lite food, and Sorrento's had really good make-your-own pizza. The hot dogs on the boardwalk were great! Cafe Promenade was also quite good. I did not do Johnny Rockets, wipeout cafe, spa cafe or the Windjammer. By all means, GO TO STARBUCKS. I am not a lover of their coffee but the prices are so reasonable - cheaper than my neighborhood store! Buy some starbucks gift cards before you go onboard and you can use them on the ship. I'm not a big drinker but I did hit the bar by the aqua theatre several times....great tropical drinks. Ask the friendly bartender for his recommendation!
And now for the shows: I was really expecting to be amazed at CHICAGO. I love the music and loved the movie. It was somewhat disappointing and more cruise-ship than Broadway. I could just be jaded (I'm from NYC and have seen many shows here in LV and in many other cities) but I just couldn't get into it. It could have been the loud, rude people that came in late and went looking for 10 seats together. RCCL REALLY needs to close the doors when the show begins.
BLUE PLANET suffered from the same problem....too cruise ship for me. Yes, the tree that comes to life is amazing. Everything else was been there, done that on 11 other cruises. Kung Fu Panda 2 in 3D was the best thing I saw in the main theatre!
The Aqua Theatre was a different story: OceanAria was lots of fun and so was the Dreamworks character show out there. I was in balcony room 10329 which is the very last balcony over the boardwalk (bed by the balcony door) and had a great view of the aqua theatre. I spent lots of time out there watching shows, movies and rehearsals. Also a great view of the ocean and the ports!
Speaking of ports...Labadee was a great day: beautiful weather, nice beaches, good food, very relaxing. I would have loved a 2nd day here instead of Jamaica.
Falmouth felt like a waste of time....boring port. If you venture into the town past the new (touristy) section, I would not recommend going too far. I have been to many places and seldom have I felt that uneasy in a foreign country. I did make my way to one of the supermarkets to get some jamaica blue mountain coffee. Under $20 bucks for a pound....best deal around. I would certainly stay away from the restaurants here....once I saw eggs sitting on a supermarket shelf in the heat and humidity, I was done with Falmouth!
Next up was supposed to have been Cozumel, but hurricane Rena had different ideas. After Jamaica, Captain Zini (major points for personality and communication!) implemented his contingency plan he had been telling us about for over 24 hrs: off to Nassau instead. We hit Nassau on friday and were there from 10-6. No problem here....we were all grateful for the detour. Check out the Conch Cafe in Nassau...really good food...and air-conditioned!
Customer service was uniformly excellent. Be chatty and friendly with them(leave the rudeness at home)and they can't do enough for you! And don't forget to give additional tips above and beyond the included gratuity (cash is best) when it's warranted. These people work very hard for very long hours and they all seemed so cheerful. That alone deserves something extra!
My only issue is how do I top this experience? I can't even think about anything other than Oasis-class (or possibly Epic) for my next cruise. RCCL has spoiled me...in the best way possible!