Before heading off to the Allure for our vacation on January 22/12, I scoured these pages and have to thank everyone for all of their tips. Reading the reviews became a nightly habit as I'd settle back in my chair for the latest exciting news and views - I'd hate to think if I hadn't I might have missed the famous roast beef sandwich!
Embarkation: Unbelievable how quick and easy this went. Our best ever. Got to the port just after 11:00 a.m. and we were on the ship in about 15 minutes. Of course we went straight to the Park Cafe for a roast beef sandwich. It was already crowded.
Room: Had a balcony cabin on Deck 6. We liked the proximity to the Boardwalk, just had to walk down the hall (a long way though since we were second from the end) and around the corner and there it was. Didn't have any noise issues in the room. Only negative was the storage which we found lacking and a bit awkward. Even the Navigator's inside cabin a week later had more storage. It was the first time we've had the bed by the sliding glass doors and I, although it seems I might be in the minority here, prefer the "living" area there since it seems to open up the room more and expand the view out the glass doors. I actually found the balcony a waste on this cruise (first time I've ever said that!!) because it was such a novelty to sit in the middle of the ship (Central Park or Boardwalk) and be outside.
The ship itself is absolutely beautiful and even by the week's end I was still walking around in awe. It was also the quietest ship we've been on - after we had someone come and put some padding in the slots where the balcony partitions are, both on our balcony and on the one to the right of us. The clattering in the wind drove us crazy the first day and we couldn't open the balcony door since it was so loud. They fixed it right away when we brought it to their attention.
My Time Dining: This worked well for us. I'd reserved tables beforehand but made a couple of changes once we were on board. We ended up eating in the dining room half the time and other places the rest of the time. No complaints at all about the food or service.
Chops Grille: This was our best meal of the cruise - and possibly of any cruise. Steaks cooked perfectly and the dessert - the mud cake - was our favourite cruise dessert ever.
Rita's Cantina: We went to Fiesta Night but would have to say it would have been much more fun with a group of friends rather than just the two of us. Not a lot of time to get to know everyone and I envied the groups at other tables who were there together because they seemed to be having a lot more fun. Unfortunately we didn't enjoy the food. We were looking forward to guacamole but there wasn't any. When someone at our table asked for more tortilla chips he was told there weren't any. The quesadillas (not good) and dessert platter went back almost untouched. This surprised me because I'd read a lot of great reviews - maybe it was an "off" night.
Promenade Cafe: What a great place to stop off for a coffee and a snack. We never seemed to have a problem getting a seat here. Try the Cranberry Bliss Bars - they're delicious! (I tried one on the Navigator the following week and it wasn't the same - colour and texture were different.)
Cupcake Cafe: Yummy! I hadn't planned on buying one but couldn't resist by the end of the week.
Johnny Rockets: Had the complimentary breakfast here. The bacon was cooked just perfectly and it was a treat to sit outside.
Doughnuts: I didn't like the chocolate doughnuts - the icing seemed to peel away - but I did like the vanilla icing ones and had a few of them over the week.
Hotdogs: We just had one of these. It was all right but nothing special. Probably should have tried something more exotic than the basic.
Ice cream: The twisty cones you make yourself were good! Never tried anything else.
Solarium Bistro: Breakfast here was our favourite. Very relaxed and always easy to find a table. The food is "healthier" - turkey bacon instead of pork, etc. We even went up there for breakfast on disembarkation day.
Entertainment: Fabulous! The comedians were great (didn't make the adult midnight show though), the ice show was spectacular, Oceanaria was our favourite, Blue Planet had amazing moments and others that seemed to drag a bit, the end of the cruise fountain and light show was fantastic. We passed on "Chicago" - not my favourite but I heard it was done well.
Fitness Centre: The best! Lots of equipment and classes. (Only got up there three times though.)
Ports: Just the right number of ports on a cruise that needed time to enjoy the ship itself as a destination. We walked around downtown Nassau, took a ship excursion to St. John from St. Thomas (worth it!) and an independent tour by Twin Island Excursions on St. Maarten which was fantastic. We saw a couple of whales from the ship while sailing from St. Maarten to Fort Lauderdale.
All in all, a fabulous week. It was a privilege to be able to sail on such a beautiful ship, which, despite the number of passengers, managed to not feel any more crowded than smaller ships. Disembarkation was pretty easy as well, and it was nice not to have to "check out" of the room before 10:00 a.m.
Now I'll keep reading the reviews and boards trying to recapture the feeling of being in the middle of the Caribbean as our winter draws to a close up here.