My wife, daughter, and I went on a 7-night cruise from Ft Lauderdale to St Maarten, Puerto Rico, and Labadee Haiti in August 2019. I could write a small book on our stay, but I'll try to keep it as short as possible but provide the ... Read More
My wife, daughter, and I went on a 7-night cruise from Ft Lauderdale to St Maarten, Puerto Rico, and Labadee Haiti in August 2019. I could write a small book on our stay, but I'll try to keep it as short as possible but provide the important highlights.
Onboarding was fantastic, it was extremely efficient and we had about 3 hours to roam the ship before we set sail. Disembarkment on the other hand was a bit confusing. Not clear on where luggage was, if either on or off the ship. Then I found out when they scanned my card to leave that I had to go to guest services to settle my account. It would have been convenient to find that out an hour or two earlier. It was due to the card used to book the trip not being valid because it was replaced a few months later due to a compromise. It would have been nice to know this up front on day 1. Then the credit card processing system was down so the customer service agent had to call in the transaction. Just terrible!
Our interior cabin was surprisingly spacious including the bathroom and shower. Sleep quality not very good, though, as the bed was too hard as was the sofa bed. The room was very clean and staff was mostly excellent, but he didn’t do the best job every day to wipe down the bathroom thoroughly.
We saw all the available shows and they were incredible! Broadway quality all around, just unbelievable talent, whether it was singing, dancing, skating, diving, acrobatics, etc. Be sure to reserve the shows ahead of time and arrive early to get a good seat.
The pools and whirlpools are an absolute joke, they are more like sardine cans for people. The flow rider, though, was a lot of fun, and surprisingly it was not very crowded the few times we went. There aren’t a tremendous number of fun things for kids to do on the ship, and it can get boring for them after a few days, as was the case with my teenage daughter. She did join the teens club, though, and made a lot of friends to spend time with during the week.
The ship itself is a sight to behold. It really is an amazing engineering marvel and work of art. The deck 16 solarium is the absolute best place to find a quiet place outside to read or relax. Nice breeze, shaded, and was never very hot during the day. Deck 15 is where one of the smoking sections is, and it was wretched having to walk through the area. The casino is another spot where smoking is allowed, on one side of it, and its smoky, musty smell actually permeates the fitness center. This is why we didn’t bother using the fitness center because it smelled terrible. Just a horrible design flaw to have the casino air mixing with air used to workout. Bingo was a joke. Very annoying setup and you were not told you couldn’t rip the cards of 6 in half until it started and not when purchasing the tickets, so ours were not valid. Totally stupid because the same serial number appeared in each card. The library is nice but very tiny for a huge ship. More quiet places are needed on the ship, in my opinion. By the end of the week you get really tired of all the noise and constant flow of people.
The food on the ship in the dining rooms was incredible, as was the service. We ate at the American Icon Grill for dinner on 5 of the 7 nights, and it was superb. Shinta and Valentina, our waiter and assistant waiter, were friendly and helpful, providing some of the best service I have ever received on a cruise. I even tipped them $100 on top of the normal prepaid tips we paid for the trip. Some of the fabulous meals we enjoyed included parmesan-crusted salmon, broiled cod, potato garlic soup, spaghetti bolognese, NY strip steak, Moroccan tuna, Jerk chicken, lobster, crème brulee, cheesecake, chocolate cake, and apple pie from heaven.
We didn’t try any of the specialty restaurants, as they can be quite pricey, but we enjoyed the formal dining so much we didn’t think it was necessary. For breakfast, lunch, and the usual overeating that occurs on a cruise, we either ate at one of the buffets or quick bite places. The Solarium Bistro provides beautiful views and layout directly at the front of the ship with a wonderful breakfast offering many healthier options when compared to the other buffet places. But the single line of people is a horrible idea because half the people don’t know how to simply scoop food and go. The Windjammer Marketplace Café line, however, moved much faster because there are numerous serving stations and not just a single queue.
Park Café is a great place to hang out in Central Park, with a nice selection of sandwiches and small items. Sorrento’s Pizza was a frequent visit for my daughter and me, but the pizza is very average, kind of generic actually. But it’s open late until 2am most days, so you can’t beat it for the convenience, and it’s on the Promenade Deck, which was my favorite indoor area, with Central Park being my favorite open area. The boardwalk area has a hot dog place and donut place, and both were very forgettable. The donuts were always stale, so don’t even bother. And the last food place to mention is the Wipeout Café, which is named appropriately, as it’s a total disaster. Just a bunch of savages leaving a mess all over the café and surrounding area, and it’s nothing but fried food and junk food, so it’s a total bust unless you’re a teenager who doesn’t mind noise, chaos, and horrible food.
We didn’t do any excursions, but we did get off at all three stops on the cruise. St Maarten was a decent experience because the beach is close to the ship and we had about 6 hours with time to spare. $7 gets you a round trip water taxi ride to the beach, and for $20 you can get an umbrella with 2 chairs from Cornie’s Beach Bar, with WiFi. We stayed about 3.5 hours on the beach then grabbed lunch at Burger Madness, a divey place on the beach. Front Street was real dumpy and disappointing, very beat up from a hurricane a couple years ago. Just spent an hour there and bought a few T-shirts before heading back to the ship.
Puerto Rico was actually my favorite stop, even though we only had about 4 hours to enjoy it. We walked around and caught a few great sights, covering about 2 miles in that short time. Café Cuatro Sombras served up some of the best coffee of my life, then we walked around before visiting San Juan Bautista Cathedral and Puerta de San Juan. Senor Paleta finished up the day with a sweet treat, some really interesting popsicle delights.
Labadee, Haiti was better than expected after reading some negative reviews, as it was clean and pretty, with plenty of free lounge chairs and clean bathrooms, except for one. We didn’t bother with the outdoor market, as numerous people warned of the potential scams going on. It was way too crowded in the water at one point, and some people were smoking all over even though it’s designated areas only. The sand is soft but there were quite a bit of small rocks on some of the beaches. The beach on the inlet side was my favorite, with very calm waters, soft sand, but it got a bit crowded in the afternoon. The beaches on the other side were nice but it was much windier with less shade and the water was loaded with seaweed. The food was terrible and I hardly ate anything and waited until we got back on the ship. Hot dogs, hamburgers, ribs, fruit, salad, and it was tolerable for this type of venue but nothing to write home about.
Overall, I really loved this cruise but there were enough negatives to only give it 4 stars. Besides the few things I mentioned already, there are just entirely too many people on a ship this large, and the worst of humanity gets gloriously magnified. By the end of the week we’ve had it with the large crowds with bad manners, negligent hygiene, and terrible perfume and cologne, as well as the constant noise throughout the week. We’ve cruised a few times before, but never on such a large ship, so I think we’ll stick to the mid-size ships from now on. The Allure of the Seas is an amazing ship and I’m glad we finally took this cruise, but it’s probably one-and-done for me. Read Less