Two of us embarked at Port Everglades, Florida and were pleasantly surprised at the easy and rapid boarding. I had expected otherwise considering the Allure of the Seas has a capacity of some 6,500 passengers. It was painless... until we got to the cabin.
We boarded about noon for a 5:30PM sailing. Our luggage was waiting for us outside our cabin. The cabin was tiny to the point that the corners of the mattresses had been cut off to allow room enough to walk by. The bed arrangement was wrong but no cabin attendant could be found. Finally, another staffer told me the attendant didn't come on duty until 4:30PM or so. About 5:30PM, an attendant finally arrived and asked for the beds to be corrected. He sighed and said he had just started and didn't know where the linens were to do that. He said "I'll take care of it when I get a chance... later."
Sorry to say, this lackadaisical attitude was typical of the dining staff as well. Over our objections, RCI had More
automatically added prepaid gratuities to our ship board account which amounted to over $165. This essentially removed any incentive for the staff to provide good service. Since we prefer to pay our gratuities in cash at the end of the cruise, personally, this was a major disappointment. RCCL's website says that prepaid gratuities are optional but after spending several hours in line over a period of several days at Guest Services, they were immovable.
Food in the dinning room was sub-par compared with previous cruises. The service was worse. The first night, I waited 45 minutes for my meal while the rest of the guests at my table were eating theirs. I asked the assistant waiter to send the head waiter over. He said he would. It never happened.
I had ordered Chicken Marsala. I got two chicken patties, formed and breaded like chicken McNuggets, with a few spoons of mushroom gravy on top. I could go on, but you get the idea. Linen napkins do not a good restaurant make. This was the first cruise on which I actually lost weight.
The ship was big and new. That was the best part. The beverage package for bottomless Coke was $53 for 7 days. When I cruised last, it was $20 for 11 days. Although the $53 included a tip, bar tenders reluctantly served those with a beverage package.
The elevators were many and rapid. There was never a long wait. The gym was rather small for the ship's size. You could not use the steam or sauna without paying an extra $99 for the privilege. In fact, there were extra charges every time we turned around. After paying $2600 for one week (2 people) in a tiny inside cabin, I expected more to be included.
The ship is very clean. It is cleaned thoroughly every morning about 4AM by the crew.
The bathroom is small but adequate. I can see where large size persons might have a problem, however.
We liked the abundance of hot tubs on the Sports Deck although they could have been hotter. There are two small ones and two large ones.
There is a 24 hour "Deli" on the Royal Promenade which offered snacks, deserts, and coffee at no extra charge. That was very thoughtful and convenient.
There were staff photographers everywhere, everyday. The digital photos were available to view and purchase the next day. Some were even pre-printed so all you had to do was pay for them at $19.95 for 8X10.
There were four teenaged boys in the cabin next to us who decided to have wrestling matches with yelling and cheering at 3-4AM. Three complaints to the cabin attendant went unheeded.
This itinerary was not so hot. Only 3 ports of call on a 7 day cruise. One of those ports, Nassau, is in my back yard and is over-commercialized and boring. I suppose it is more interesting if you come from the northern climes. St. Thomas is more of the same stores hawking silver, gold, diamonds, booze... the usual fare. Of the 3, St. Maarten was my favorite.
In summary, my previous cruises were mostly on Celebrity Cruise Lines and they have set the bar. I am hoping that they have maintained their food quality and service. My next cruise will tell. Less
Allure of the Seas Cruises to the Eastern Caribbean
We had fun in St. Maarten. The ship docked early (7:30AM) and I hiked the mile or so into town. It is cleaner and better maintained than some ports of call. Prices are reasonable. The island is half Dutch and half French. Taxis are moderately priced but the mini buses are a bargain. A local woman told me which bus to take to Maho on the other side of the mountain. The taxi would have been $20. The pleasant bus was $3 each way. The people seem better educated and better off than some islands. In this regard, the island is similar to Aruba. Internet cafes were readily available at $5/hour of usage. I will return here to spend more time and look for property (very expensive). Coincidentally, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands arrived there the same day which tied traffic up somewhat. There are beautiful beaches including a few infamous ones where clothing is optional. At the Sunset Grille near the airport, topless ladies drink for free.
St. Thomas has been a cruising standard for a long time and it shows it. The main street is lined with the usual stores selling the usual tourist trap items: gold, silver, diamonds, emeralds. The pitch is "Duty Free" this and that although, with free trade agreements and the fact that the US Virgin Islands is still in the US, this term has little meaning other than a gotcha.
If you like shore excursions, there are many to choose from on St. Thomas. A snorkeling trip is always fun. It runs about $75 per person and, for those who drink, they have an open bar.