We have sailed on RC many times, and Barcelona was the easiest port ever in terms of embarkation. Upon arrival at the ship, porters met us at the taxi and took our luggage immediately, so we didn't have to drag bags at all. Check in ... Read More
We have sailed on RC many times, and Barcelona was the easiest port ever in terms of embarkation. Upon arrival at the ship, porters met us at the taxi and took our luggage immediately, so we didn't have to drag bags at all. Check in began at 11, and obviously most people waited until later, because we had no wait at all and were heading onboard within about 15 minutes. NOTE: There is a duty free store after you go through security, so you can wait to buy your 2 bottles of wine to take onboard at the port. Some varieties were offered in a 2 for 1 sale! Our bags were not checked again after the initial security screening.
This particular itinerary has 2 embarkation ports – of the 6400 passengers, approx. 4000 got onboard in Barcelona and the other 2400 on day 5 in Rome (Civitavecchia). We didn't find this a problem at all, except that this meant "turnaround" days twice during the week for the cabin stewards, and so the hallways were a bit crowded the day we were in Rome. There were separate muster drills for each set of passengers, which was a welcome relief that we didn’t have to do that twice.
We had sailed on the Oasis before, so exploring the Allure was easy...there are several dining venues, and one of the best features are the interactive screens near each elevator which show you how crowded each one is. That can save time and frustration.
The ship has recently gone through refurbishment, and so everything was in good order. The public areas were clean, there didn't seem to be long lines for the Flowriders, Rock climbing wall, or zip lines. The pool and decks were only crowded on the sailing day, as would be expected. The spa and fitness center were seldom crowded when we were there, but this was a heavy port itinerary, with 6-9 hour days in port. The casino is nice and big, but could get crowded at night and a bit smoky, as it is the only indoor area of the ship where smoking is allowed.
Dining: The only challenge we had was that we had booked our reservation for My Time Dining, but when we went to make our reservations for the week, we were told we were in the first seating instead. No one could tell us why this happened, and even after calling RC after returning home, the system still showed us as My Time. Wouldn't have been a problem, except that we were traveling with another couple, and they were still on My Time. The staff helped us out, however, and reserved a table for 4 in the first seating so we could dine together. As it turns out, because of the late sailing times at most ports, we only used the dining room 3 nights. There is a great buffet for breakfast and lunch in the Solarium – we used it rather than the Windjammer, because the Windjammer was always packed. Park Café was also a good choice with sandwiches & salad bar. We used one specialty restaurant: Izumi. It was fantastic. The staff was fun and attentive. The prices (a la carte as opposed to a set fee as in the others) were reasonable ($15-20 for 4-6 pieces of each type of sushi).
Shows: We made reservations on day 1 for several of the shows, but only saw 2: ice skating and the Zoots (60s band). They were both average. The ice skating show was based upon the ship, and at first we thought it was going to be all commercials for the specialty dining, as it started out with a setting of Giovanni's Table. But they wove a story around it, and it was cute. Book all of your shows in advance or at least on the first day; with 6000+ passengers, they fill up fast, especially Mamma Mia.
Diamond Lounge: This was our first cruise as Diamond Members with Crown & Anchor, and we utilized the Diamond Lounge daily. As a Diamond, you get continental breakfast, and a happy hour with free drinks and hors d'oeurves from 5-8:30 pm. RC has also started offering 3 free drinks during the same timeframe at almost every bar on the ship, so if you don't make it to the lounge in the evening, you can still enjoy free drinks! Angel was our concierge in the Lounge, and he took great care of all of us. Here's a big tip about reaching Diamond, if that is a goal you have -- if you book a cabin that is a suite, you get double cruise points. We did not know this and learned about it on a cruise earlier this year when we had booked a Jr Suite because of a great price. We thought we would have to do another cruise to reach Diamond, but found out we were there after 5 days into that cruise! Had we known about that, we might have splurged on suites earlier and gotten there much faster!
Ports of call:
Western Med itinerary: Because this ship is so huge, it cannot dock where most cruise ships go; it has to dock in the industrial ports. So be aware that at most ports, you have to catch a shuttle bus to get from the ship to the port gate at each destination -- no simple getting off and walking to nearby souvenir shops or into town. There were charges at 2 ports for the shuttle; it was free at others. If you do a ship excursion, however, the buses pick you up and drop you off right at the ship.
Mallorca, Spain – beautiful city. We took the shuttle in ($) and explored on our own: visited the cathedral, shopped for Majorica pearls, and stopped for a much needed cold Spanish beer. There were long lines of passengers waiting to get back on the shuttle buses to return to the ship, and the process was not well organized. Some passengers (& crew members) got a little cranky in the heat! Don’t wait until the last minute to return to the ship.
Marseilles, France – We took a taxi up to the Cathedral of Notre Dame – highly recommend doing so, as you can ride uphill then walk downhill; otherwise would have been quite a hike! The view from up top is amazing, with the city on one side and Chateau d’If on the other. We explored the harbor area of the city, enjoying some French pastries and baguettes, cold beer (again) and shopping. Be sure to get off of the main street a few blocks to get a more local feel – you might find a farmers market with fresh local goods. Be leary of pickpockets – we had read about this online and met at least one passenger who was pickpocketed in Marseilles.
La Spezia, Italy – After reading reviews of Florence, Pisa and various ways of getting to Cinque Terre, we opted to hire a private boat to take us to Cinque Terre. Our captain, Diego (Fish & Chill) treated us to an amazing day in his beautiful 37’ boat, seeing the villages from the water and avoiding long lines at the train station. I highly recommend him! We had some rough water, but still had a blast. We visited Porto Venere, Vernazza and Monterroso – all lovely villages and enjoyed a swim in the Med! Diego’s mom had prepared a delicious lunch of salami and cheese, veggie kish, stuffed vegetables, focaccia with pesto and stracchino, wine & limoncello (homemade). YUM! This day was the highlight of our entire trip!
Civitavecchia – Because we had all been to Rome before and were not excited about a 1-1/2 hour bus or train ride there and back, we decided to have a leisurely day in Civitavecchia and onboard while everyone else was in Rome. We checked online for recommended restaurants and found PaneAmore & Fantasia – wonderful, fresh-caught seafood. It’s a 20-25 minute walk from the port gate but well worth it. Again, get away from the touristy areas and explore this gem of a city.
Naples – This was our only shore excursion day. We did the Exploration of Pompeii 4 hour tour. It was well worth the price. Our guide, Barbara, was passionate about the ruins and made the day so interesting and fun. Be sure to take water and wear a hat – it’s brutally hot. The only disappointment was that 4 hours didn’t allow time to visit the museum, which we would have liked to do. If you want to get a more in-depth understanding of what happened there, do a longer tour. After the tour, we walked into town to find the #1 pizza place, which had a 1-1/2 hr wait. So we walked across the street to the #5 pizza place and some fantastic pizza!
Disembarkation: We had an early flight out of Barcelona, so opted for Express departure. We took our luggage off the ship ourselves and were in line at 6 am to depart. There was no customs procedure since we had been in the EU all week, and we were off the ship by 6:15. Simple and painless! Read Less