Our family of 5 (husband, 3 teen-aged boys, and myself) went on the Allure of the Seas for the December 18-25 sailing from Ft Lauderdale. This is our third cruise on Royal Caribbean (previously Navigator of the Seas and Legend of the Seas), and our 14th cruise overall (Carnival, Disney, Celebrity, Uniworld, and Royal Caribbean). Eight additional family members were also on this sailing. I had very high expectations in regards to the ship and amenities, but we were disappointed in the overall experience.
Embarkation: The Allure of the Seas does a very good job with getting everyone on the ship in a timely manner. This is one of the easiest embarkations I've ever had, and I was impressed with this part of the trip. However, the trip went downhill from here.
Hand sanitizer patrol: Every time you turn around there's a stand with hand sanitizer and someone getting nasty with you to use it. I was told I "had" to use the hand sanitizer before entering a restaurant or getting on the ship. The hand sanitizers are also on the pier before you get back in line to get on the ship, so you've been instructed that you "have" to use it 3 different times before getting to your cabin or to a dining venue. I told one of the girls that my hands were still wet from using it 5 minutes ago, and she was insistent that I use it again.
Dining: This is one of the worst things on the Allure of the Seas. The Windjammer buffet is way too small, as other reviewers have noted. The continuous announcement to "please finish your meal and get out so other people can come in and eat" was annoying. The Windjammer also had very limited hours, much less than what I've previously experienced on ships. The food was good, but it was very crowded and the lines long. Several times we would arrive at the Windjammer and couldn't even go in- there were ropes blocking off the entrances since it was already full. It really didn't seem to matter what time we arrived- early, mid, or late. Of course, there are other places to go eat, but spending $50 for lunch at Johnny Rockets (for 5 people getting a meal and a milkshake) was not what I had planned to do every day, and hadn't put that it in my budget as we planned to eat in the free buffet every day.
The main dining room was fine- nothing spectacular, and service for our table was slow. We had early seating dinner at 6:00, and would finally be finished at 7:45, and we're not slow eaters. Selections are much fewer than on previous sailings, and portions were smaller.
Specialty Restaurants: We ate at Choppes Grille, which was good. Large portions, and the steaks were nicely done- this is the best meal we had on the trip. We also had dinner at Rita's Cantina one evening, which was fine. Not great, but it was good food.
Alcoholic drinks: The drink of the day was very weak, hardly any alcohol in them. It appears that the waiters carry around glasses full of mix and add one shot in the top of rum or whatever liquor is in the drink. The advertised buy-one-get-one free martinis never seemed to materialize. The waiter and bartenders in the venues always said that "it has been changed, and the special was over a half hour ago", even when we got out the Cruise Compass and showed them where it was listed.
Infirmary: My husband had the unfortunate luck to put his back out lifting the luggage as we were boarding. We had ibuprofen in the travel bag, but by the next morning, he could barely move. We went to the infirmary to see the physician, and were basically treated like drug seekers. They finally got a little nicer about it when I told the doctor that I work in an Emergency Department and understand all about drug seeking, and that's not what we were doing. We just wanted a steroid shot and something a little stronger than Ibuprofen. They did give us some Tylenol #3 and Mobic, as well as a heating pad, and fortunately, my husband was able to be up and moving about again by Wednesday.
Staterooms: My husband and I were in balcony cabin 7142 and our boys were in inside cabin 7147. The bathrooms are so small that you can sit on the toilet and reach the sink to brush your teeth if you wanted to. The showers have nice doors that close, so no wet shower curtain touching you as you shower, but they were pretty tight as well. We kept the balcony door open all night, which was nice to drown out any noise of people running up and down the hallway. This does turn the AC off in the cabin, but we were comfortable. Our cabin steward did a nice job keeping the cabin clean and tidy, and brought extra towels whenever I asked for them. She also greeted us by name every time we saw her in the hallway, and was very pleasant.
Ports: Labadee has been built up more since we were there 8 years ago, now offering a long zip line and a few other activities. The boys decided that they would like to try the zip line, so we went to check them in around noon (at $90 a pop!) and they were sold out. Falmouth, Jamaica has nothing but some shops- you have to leave the port to find anything to do. Cozumel is a great place for snorkeling and diving- we took a taxi to Chankanaab and did a Dive with Dolphins encounter that was amazing. We never do excursions through the cruise line, so I can't speak to those.
Activities on the ship: The zip line line on the days at sea was 20 minutes long for a 4 second ride. (I counted- it really is only 4 seconds) You have to wear lace-up shoes and socks, and it's not written anywhere that these are required except right at the zip line, so we had to go back to the cabin to get the appropriate attire. It certainly would have saved time if it was written in the Cruise Compass that this was required. (If it was, I apologize if we missed seeing it.) The mini-golf course is small, but cute. The multiple pools are nice, and the younger kids on the ship seemed to really enjoy the water park area. The adults-only serenity pool was nice- the staff actually kicked out the younger kids, which was appreciated. The cupcake decorating class was fun, and the instructor did a nice job. We also enjoyed the piano bar sing-along in the evenings.
Spa: I had a massage, my son got a haircut, and my husband got a massage. The service was good, but is expensive, as it is on any cruise. Apparently we all have disgusting skin and hair, because we "needed" several hundred dollars worth of special spa products. The staff was very pushy about trying to sell products and didn't want to take "no thank-you" for an answer.
Neighborhoods: The concept is nice, and the ship is lovely. There were always a bunch of children on the Boardwalk, which was expected. Charging families for ice cream, cotton candy, and popcorn after the character parade was outrageous. (fortunately our teenagers didn't care) Central Park was mostly quiet, and there needs to be more seating for those of us who want to get away from the noise and the temper tantrums from badly behaved children. The shopping area was very expensive- I had a bit of a cough and tried to buy some NyQuil or cough drops- $18 for a 4 ounce bottle of NyQuil, and $5 for a bag of cough drops. I went to the infirmary and got some cough syrup and cough drops for $10. Cheaper, but still outrageous.
Shows: Chicago was good, Ocean Aria was amazing, How to Train your Dragon was cute, Ice Games was good, and Blue Planet was good. It's nice to see so many different shows offered, but having to pick a time and get tickets was frustrating. We planned everything several weeks before we left, reserved the tickets and times, and found that everything had been changed to different days and times, without any prior notice. We had planned to see the ice show on embarkation day, and showed up at the doors to see a sign that the show had been changed. You can access your schedule via the stateroom TV, which we did that evening, and found that everything had been changed, which really isn't a good thing to do to someone as OCD about schedules as I am.
Disembarkation was easier than I anticipated after reading some of the reviews here prior to our sailing. It was still crazy, but we were able to find our luggage and get out fairly quickly.
Overall, I enjoyed the trip- after all, you can't be in the Caribbean in December and not enjoy the beach and the warm Caribbean sun, knowing that back home it's cold and snowy. I will not plan to ever go on the Allure of the Seas again, or to book the Oasis of the Seas. I don't think they're worth the money that Royal Caribbean is charging for cabins, especially since so much on the ship isn't included in the cruise fare. I enjoy just being away from home in the warm weather, lying around the pool with my book, and being waited on, which I can get from any cruise line, including those that charge much lower rates.