EDITORS' NOTE: The comments here are based on my/our personal experience and do not reflect what everyone else says - which is why it's a Member Review. :)
We took the November 13-20, 2011 cruise.
We did a non-cruise-related flight from YYZ to FLL on Delta Airlines. Delta gets the worst slots at YYZ and DTW but it was the best price we could find - $422 for each of four (including two three-year-olds). No issues with flights from/to YYZ but no non-stop flights were available for the price.
We stayed at the Cambria Suites Hotel.
As everyone else states, it is a nasty walk to cross the busy highway from the hotel.
Staff were friendly but did not have a rollaway or cot as requested or as they said they would have upon checking in (after booking on choicehotels.com months previously). We got to the hotel at 4 p.m. on the Saturday for the Sunday cruise but could only get a 10 a.m. shuttle on the Sunday morning. On Sunday morning, the first shuttle left at 10 a.m., leaving us there waiting for the next shuttle which came at 10:25 a.m. - not entirely a bad thing considering we wanted an 11 a.m. flight. However, the hotel allowed two men with "W" badges to "troll" the lobby to sign up people for the shuttle back from the port to a hotel upon arrival back in FLL. Not classy. And the men didn't explain they weren't part of the 'free' shuttle service being offered by the hotel to/from FLL or Port Everglades.
As stated, the hotel is not an easy walk from anything other than the Las Vegas cuban resaturant. We met FLL friends and walked 20 minutes to a plaza to eat at a diner. There were plenty of other hotels really close to the plaza, including Springhill Suites and a Comfort Inn. Live and learn.
We got to Port Everglades at
Our shuttle got to Port Everglades at 10:45 a.m. We were inside the terminal two minutes later and while no one was in line, we were directed to an assistance desk, presumably because we were traveling with small children. The older couple helping us could not have been nicer, but were a tad slow. Otherwise, VERY QUICK check-in. I asked about the kids play area (which I'd read about). Surprisingly (or not?) they did not know anything about it.
At any rate, we got upstairs and found the space very quickly. The kids were occupied for about 20 minutes. At 11 a.m., we let everyone else exit the terminal and were on the ship at about 11:30 a.m.
Superlatives such as, "Amzaing", "Wow", "Impressive", "Big" best describe the Allure of the Seas. Even seeing it from the outside did not quite prepare us for the size of the ship once onboard. Deck five - where most of the shops are located - seemed like a mall. Walking to deck eight and seeing Central Park, how could we not be 'awed' by the size of the space!
We had lunch and got to our stateroom at 1 p.m. Our bags were already there!
A month before and again a few days prior to cruising, I had phone and online chats with Royal Caribbean agents. Each time, I requested that the mini-bar be emptied before we get onboard, that footstools be provided in case the kids couldn't reach the sink (which as everyone noted is too shallow and results in a lot of spillover). We had another concern albeit minor. I was told the mini-bar request could be taken care of onboard once we got to the room.
A day later (a few days before the cruise), I received an e-mail which is obviously meant for passengers requesting special services (disabled, etc.) which had no relevance to my requests.
When we saw our cabin steward, we asked that the mini-bar be emptied. He told me that he could not empty it and that another person would have to do that because alcohol was involved. It got taken out about two or three hours later on the first day.
Anyway, as for our cabin itself, our inside Promenade cabin (mid-ship deck seven) was long but not wide (about 194 sq. ft). We found the space to be adequate for the storage of bags and clothing. It might have been nice to have a curtain divider as provided as some of the other suites.
The only problem with this room occurred on the night of the '70's tribute when, starting at about 10 p.m., we heard a lot of shouting on a PA system. The emcee was talking to the crowd gathered for the show. Luckily our kids were already asleep, but for us, it was a bit too much. My partner had to call guest services at 10:30 p.m. to ask when it would end and why, per chance, there wasn't another venue on this humungous ship in which to hold the event, especially since a sound system was being used. Based on his response, the agent answering the phone appeared to be quite familiar with the complaint we'd made. Unfortunately, no one ever followed up with us or expressed any regret about this. Customer service issue or did we not complain as loud as the emcee seemed to be that night?
Despite what a lot of others have said, we thought the Windjammer Marketplace was a great venue in terms of food. HOWEVER, and any Royal Caribbean staff reading this, please note: You really, really need to do something about large groups of two people sitting at booths or tables for 8+. It was extremely frustrating for us to walk around (4 adults and 5 kids) trying to find a place to sit together, even in non-peak hours. If I was Captain Johnny, I would have signs saying, "For the enjoyment of all guests, please do not use these tables unless you are a party of 6 or more." It doesn't mean someone would be kicked out if they were not a party of six or more, but the moral suasion and shame of sitting at a table meant for a large group might just dissuade people from taking tables when there are (and were) other available tables.
But back to the food, collectively, we had NO complaints whatsoever about the food. While it might seem the same on day seven, where else do you go that gives you so many different options for food at breakfast, lunch and dinner. I don't typically eat at Michelin-rated restaurants but I definitely think the food was more than adequate (very tasty) to meet the needs of the average cruise-goer.
We dined in Giovanni's Table on the last night because we wanted at least one experience. The food was plentiful and delicious.
My only issue was that, upon receiving the last bill on Sunday morning, our tip charge had been repeated twice. I had to stand in line for 15 minutes to get it resolved. It then took the guest services person 15 minutes to reverse the charge but it was resolved. Bring your receipt as well should you have any issues such as this.
We used "My Time Dining" at the Adagio Room (deck five). We never waited to be seated. We sat at the same table and had the same waiter and assistant waiter. They did a good job, considering they had nine of us to contend with plus their other tables. No real complaints. The food was more than adequate and they were willing and able to bring things not on the menu.
The ship photographers need to go back to school and learn how to take pictures. Despite the high cost of packages, we would have bought more than the two photos we bought. However, the posed shots were so bad, we would have been morons to buy them.
It is definitely in the interest of the cruise line to have better pictures taken in order than people feel compelled to buy the photo packages (which, as stated by many, are ridiculously expensive).
We traveled with our three-year-old twin boy and girl. They loved the Kids Club. Luckily, there were only about 300 children on the ship for this cruise and not many in that age group. Our kids always wanted to go back and enjoyed it a lot, especially our son and his face painting (lion, tiger, rock star) and our daughter (rock star). They always wanted to go back and did not mind being away from us for two or three hours at a time.
The kids (and adults) had a lot of fun. Great space, great venue!
We didn't see many adult shows ie. Chicago, headliners, etc. or participate in trivia, etc. due to being with the kids. However, we saw two ice shows, Blue Planet and Oceanaria. I can't really review them as we all have different tastes. The skaters had some issues with making jumps, probably due to the small size of the ice rink and any movement on the ship. The first Oceanaria had to be cancelled due to high waves.
What I didn't enjoy at shows were adults sitting in the front row and taking up seats (especially able-bodied adults travelling sans children). Perhaps we as adults should think about the fact that a kids ice show is for kids and that they might want to be able to see it. Just my .02. :)
TRAVELLING AS A SAME-SEX COUPLE
I decided to put this in here, partly as enlightenment for all readers but mostly for cruise ship staff and cruise line executives who may be reading this or be told about this.
We are a male couple with two children. We were traveling with another male couple with three children. You probably noticed us on the ship. :)
We had at least six staff ask where the "mother" was. While they may have been well meaning, it is insensitive. What if we were traveling as divorced or widowed parents? And think about the kids. Having people ask this question everywhere we go? We never hear this in 'real life' so hearing it on the ship was unexpected. Without being overly politically correct, the cruise line may want to think about adding this topic to their training.
Very smooth. We were scheduled at 9:45 a.m. as per our choice. We disembarked at 9:40 a.m. We had to locate one of the three pieces of checked luggage as it was not by the other two, but considering the volumes of travelers, it wasn't awful by any means.
We got in and out of the customs line in about five minutes and were outside to call the hotel on the FREE courtesy phone near the ATMs (FYI!). One RCCI staffer outside didn't know those phones existed. Another one did!
We waited for the Sleep Inn hotel shuttle for about 30 minutes but it came, no issues. I won't waste time talking about the Sleep Inn other than, don't stay there. There are too many OTHER / BETTER choices!
We did Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Having been to St. Thomas a few times, we just did the RCI beach exursion. It was okay - $28 per adult, the kids were free. We only walked around Nassau. Very disappointing. St. Maarten is much classier than St. Thomas and feels much safer as well.
The 'mingle' was a pleasant enough experience. However, (no flaming here folks!) it was a bit tiresome to have the female cruise director-wanna-be spend 30 minutes walking around the room getting every single person to talk about themselves then spend another 10 minutes getting people to guess whether the average gallons of ice cream served (just an example) per week was 5, 34, 97, 125 or 2000 gallons. Would it ever end! A waste of time if you're trying to get people to mingle. There wasn't a lot of mingling. But as for the passengers, everyone seemed very pleasant.
And a special shout out to the Cruise Critic passengers who so graciously allowed us voyagers (or is that voyeurs?) to inspect their cabins. An eye-opening experience to say the least! Thanks all!
I actually tried to use the fitness room one night after the kids went to bed but it turns out the locker rooms close at 10 p.m. while the fitness room closes at 1 a.m. Go figure. I was told I could change in the restroom. No thanks.
Didn't win. Not many people did, based on my two experiences there. I was very restrained as I could see I was not going to get much of a return on my 'investment' even in the short-term. Princess and NCL have much looser slots!
I don't need a shopping mall. There were days I don't think I saw more than a few minutes of the outside of the ship unless I was on the sports deck, etc.
Speaking of which, the zip line was a nice touch. Did it once to say I did it. But then, I've done mile-long zip lining through the clouds in Costa Rica, so there. :)
Would I take this ship again? Honestly speaking, probably not. It's still expensive, even looking into next year.
And, yes, it's massive and amazing but, because of the twin buildings, a wind tunnel effect seems to be created. It was also a lot more 'rocky' in terms of being affected by the high waves. This fact surprised me, but then I'm not a 'boater'. :)
I may go Royal Caribbean again, but will do Freedom Class ships that have the kids amenities. However, having sailed on NCL and Princess, travelling with and without kids, I found the NCL and Princess staffs (collectively speaking) to be a tad friendlier overall.
I left a lot out, but I just wanted to give my own long-winded take on the week. Hopefully some of you will find some of this of mild interest. :)
The preceding is just my 'take' on things. We will all have differing interests and opinions. I look forward to reading what others have had to say about this ship and their experiences.