It's been said before: Allure has enough dining options for passengers to sample a different venue every meal for a week -- if you're on the three-squares diet, that is. True, you can certainly stick to the classics, but you can also branch out with a sushi joint, hot dog stand, Mexi-Cali beach bar and upscale tasting venue. That said, the Allure dining-related question we get most often is, "Which of the ship's 20-plus dining options are free and which are for-fee?" Here's the master list, including traditional banquet dining, alternative restaurants and casual eats:
Allure's three-deck Adagio Dining Room
, punctuated by a monumental glass chandelier and three-story mural of birds and plants on the back wall, has seating for some 3,000 passengers. During dinner, two decks are generally dedicated to traditional set-seating dining, while one is reserved for Royal's flex-dining program, My Time Dining. (Note: Those opting for My Time Dining will need to prepay gratuities.) When it comes to main dining room menus, the line steers clear of too much experimentation -- you'll find lobster, prime rib, roast turkey and the like -- though Indian cuisine is well represented, particularly in vegetarian options like chickpea curry and aloo ghobi. For the health-conscious, a "Vitality" menu promises to keep its three courses under 800 calories. Always-available selections include chicken, steak and salmon. Royal Caribbean is also one of two lines offering for-fee premium steaks in the main dining room. (Carnival is the other.) A 10-ounce Chops Grille filet (the cut you'd get in the alternative restaurant of the same name) is offered nightly. It'll set passengers back $14.95.
The Adagio has open-seating breakfast and lunch with waiter service.
Royal Caribbean's popular Windjammer Marketplace
, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, is compact, given the size of Allure -- but that's because a plethora of other (better) casual venues are scattered throughout the ship. That doesn't mean the top-ship buffet spot isn't mobbed during peak meal times; window-side tables may be especially tough to snag. The Windjammer features the now-industry-standard "action station" setup, with separate spots to fill your tray with freshly-made panini, pasta concoctions and stir-fries.
The Cafe Promenade
, a 24-hour spot in the Royal Promenade, serves up brownies, cookies, small sandwiches and coffee around the clock. The addictive ham and cheese mini-croissant is a staple; other sandwiches rotate and include roast beef with pickles on a poppy bun. The Cafe Promenade is also one of several spaces to grab free, self-service Seattle's Best coffee.
, a Royal Caribbean stalwart and popular haunt for teens and club-goers, offers free slices during lunch, dinner and late-night. In fact, it's almost never closed. You can select from an assemblage of ingredients (meats, cheeses, vegetables) to make your own personal pie, or opt for the premade varieties. While it's fine for a quick fix, New York City pizza this is not -- it's more akin to Ellios, with its spongy crust and sodium-laden cheese. Still, as the week went on, we became programmed to grab a slice whenever we passed by.
The Park Cafe
has proven to be one of the Oasis class' biggest dining hits. The casual Central Park restaurant serves hot panini and build-your-own bagels for breakfast, as well as custom made salads and sandwiches throughout the day. The Kummelweck -- roast beef au jus -- has to be the most talked-about sandwich in cruising. Since the venue is a hit, it's not always easy to find a table -- available both inside and alfresco -- during peak hours.
The Boardwalk Dog House
, a new-to-Allure dining option, offers passengers the chance to sink their teeth into the Austrian-style wunderdog (skinny wiener inserted into a hollowed out roll), German brat with sauerkraut or five other varieties. The all-you-can-eat dogs are available at no extra cost. Our one major gripe -- no spicy mustard is available nearby. You have to navigate up 10 decks to the Windjammer to find some, which we suppose has the effect of working off the calories.
The Boardwalk Donut Shop
, an Oasis favorite, has returned to Allure, although instead of a storefront, donuts are added every morning to a self-service glass case. There's no additional charge. Fee-free Seattle's Best coffee is also available there.
Passengers can munch away at the Wipeout Cafe
, a mini-version of Allure's buffet, offering fast food like burgers, fries and chicken. It's complimentary and open from breakfast to pre-dinner. The space, which is located on the sun deck near the sports zone area (FlowRiders, Ping-Pong, basketball court), is sometimes reserved for kids-only lunches.
If you're looking for lighter options after a workout -- think fruit, yogurt parfaits and sandwiches -- head to the Vitality Spa Cafe
, located in the gym and spa complex. You can also buy smoothies powered with protein boosters and fresh-squeezed juices.
The top-deck Solarium Bistro
, complimentary during breakfast and lunch, is in Allure's breezy (and often steamy) indoor/outdoor solarium. At breakfast, there are yogurts, granola, oatmeal, fruit and breakfast meats (like the more healthful turkey sausage instead of the pork variety). Lunch features light fare, such as couscous, salads, fruit and yogurt.
On all RCI ships, including Allure, room service
straddles the line between for-fee and free. In-room dining is available around the clock and is free most of the day (though we tip a couple bucks per delivery). A late-night service charge, however, of $3.95 per order is assessed between midnight and 5 a.m. Egg dishes are available in the morning, along with the usual Continental fare (croissants, coffee, cereal). Throughout the day and into the evening, passengers can choose between pizza, hot and cold sandwiches and salads.
Past passengers will be familiar with Chops Grille
, Royal Caribbean's dinner-only steakhouse. On Allure, the venue is in Central Park. The $39 charge to eat there includes all the appetizers you can consume and your choice of porterhouse, filet, veal chop, halibut, etc. (Note: The menu does change, so there may be some variation in meat, fish and fowl.) Sides -- including baked potatoes, asparagus and onion rings -- accompany the cuts. Hungry for more meat? Additional entrees are $10 each.
Near Chops in Central Park is Vintages
, the ship's wine and tapas bar, which utilizes iPads to match food and wine. The tapas, which focus on Spanish cuisine -- think chorizo, octopus salad, manchego cheese and olives -- cost between $2 and $4 apiece. There are also sugary options if you're so inclined. If you're sharing, consider ordering a "tapas sampler." These combine various tapas and are very cost-effective. Wines are available in two- and five-ounce servings, as well as by the bottle. A few wine flights on the menu -- three two-ounce glasses -- offer modest savings.
, located in Central Park, is Allure's Italian venue, offering a trattoria-style ambience and a traditional menu of antipastis, pastas and grilled meats. The restaurant was introduced on Oasis, replacing the Royal Caribbean icon Portofino, and aims for a more casual, family-style feel than the more service-focused Portofino. The service charge is $10 for lunch (served on sea days only) and $15 for dinner.
150 Central Park
is Allure's showcase venue, and it offers two multicourse tasting menus per cruise, which also change seasonally. Since menus are fluid, it's hard to know exactly what you're going to get, but that creative component is part of the appeal. (The six exotic table salts, including one that tastes like a hard-boiled egg, are a constant.) We had bison tenderloin, cucumber caviar and a phenomenal Asian-style Dover sole. Each of the six courses is served with a vivid explanation by the eager waiter, and the chef wanders the room to discuss how she just smoked potato gnocchi using sawdust (true story). 150's service fee is $40, making it one of the priciest alternative restaurants in the industry. A wine pairing option for $75 couples each of six courses with a compatible 2-ounce pour. This option represents a small savings, as the restaurant's wine list offers only a few (pricey) wines by the glass.
In the Royal Promenade, the Starbucks
kiosk offers all the ubiquitous company's standard hot drinks at the expected prices, and diehards can even use their Starbucks gold cards. The selection of edibles is, however, abbreviated. You'll find red velvet pie, croissants and other sweets ($1.50 to $2), but not the full menu of savory sandwiches typically available on land.
As on Oasis, Allure's Cupcake Cupboard
sells all manner and flavor of icing-topped confections baked on the premises. Regular cupcakes are $2.50 each; minis are $1.25. (Buy a dozen standard cupcakes, and you'll save a few bucks.) Cupcake-decorating classes, a popular parent-kid bonding activity, carry an additional fee; as of November 2011, it's $22 for adults, $15 for kids.
The Johnny Rockets
old-timey burger joint, another signature Royal Caribbean venue, touts burgers, sandwiches and fries/onions rings for lunch and dinner. A charge of $4.95 per person covers all you can eat at this Boardwalk spot; drinks like shakes and malts are extra. On Oasis and Allure only, Johnny Rockets is also a complimentary breakfast venue that features waffles, hash brown nachos, a couple of hot egg dishes and a breakfast sandwich. The food was forgettable, but the change in breakfast venue was appreciated. Although the breakfast is free, expect a receipt with space for gratuity.
, the Mexi-Cali beach bar concept that replaced Oasis' Seafood Shack on the Boardwalk, is an indoor/outdoor venue offering a variety of beef, chicken and seafood entrees, plus classic Mexican-American favorites like nachos and guacamole. Of equal importance is a wide selection of tequilas and margaritas. There's a $3 service charge to eat lunch or dinner there, and then each item on the menu is priced a la carte. Check out the Rita's Cantina menu here
. A few nights per cruise, Rita (or a crewmember dressed up like a Mexican hostess) hosts a raucous fiesta. For $20, passengers get three margaritas, more food than they can eat, and the chance to dance and whoop it up in between courses. A D.J. keeps the two-hour party moving until you're ready to stumble out.
The Boardwalk is also home to an ice cream parlor
, offering a la carte scoops from $1.95.
By night, the adults-only Solarium is transformed into the Samba Grill
, a Brazilian-style churascarria that's a love letter to the carnivore. For $25, gauchos bring you all-you-can-eat sirloin, bacon-wrapped chicken, filet, lamb, sausage and pork. All the while, a leggy Amazonian woman dressed in a feathery costume shimmies. Each table comes with a lighting system to indicate dining preferences. Green means "more meat." Depending on whom you ask, red means "I'm full, but I might change my mind," "No, I'm not with child" or "No more please -- two coronaries is my per-dinner limit." One issue with the Samba Grill: On humid Caribbean evenings, the A/C-free Solarium can be sweltering, and that, coupled with the smell of the nearby pool, can be slightly offputting to some diners.
, adjacent to the Windjammer, serves sushi and other Asian specialties (such as hot pots and meats cooked on 575-degree rocks). There's an upfront charge of $3 for lunch and $5 for dinner, then the menu is a la carte. Expect to pay $20 per person, not counting the Ichibans.
The Chef's Table
concept, introduced to mainstream cruisers by Princess, has expanded to almost every line. Allure of the Seas' version is a five-course, $95-per-person offering available for just 14 passengers on every night of the cruise. The event starts with Champagne in the library and a meet-and-greet with the sommelier and fellow diners. The dinner party then relocates to the Concierge Lounge, where you'll find a long table and expansive views over the Boardwalk, AquaTheater and horizon. Each of the five courses is paired with wine, and passengers get a detailed explanation of wine (sommelier) and food (one of Allure's top chefs) before each is served.