Allure of the Seas Cruise Review by eCaroline
- Sail Date: October 2018
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
A strong recommendation is to choose uber, rather than a more expensive airport shuttle on Embarkation Day. We payed much less than the guests who crammed into the shuttle buses, even when we chose the uber XL (Mercedes SUV).
Embarkation was a positive surprise, as it was professional and smooth. We had packed a bag with swimsuits, sunhats and sunblock, and carried this on along with some extra clothes for the kids. This was a good recommendation, as the checked in bags did not arrive until late afternoon, several hours after we were aboard. In the checked in luggage, we had also brought mini-sodas and snacks for the children and the 2 allowed wine bottles for us. This was conveniently bought the evening before at the Publix store located within short walking distance from the Embassy Suites Hotel.
As first time cruisers, we certainly do not have much of a reference frame, but I assume even frequent cruisers would be impressed by the size of this ship. It took us a little while to find our way around (and not walk in the wrong direction). Our cabin was a Stateroom with a seaview Balcony on the starboard side. This was a good choice, as we got a great view of the ports as we were "sailing in". The room itself was nice and clean, but it sure could not be smaller, leaving approx 25cm between the desk and the sofabed when folded out. The balcony had a small table and only 2 chairs, which we found odd and a little disappointing, as the cabin is for 4 people. We did move out the desk chair the couple times we enjoyed breakfast on the balcony, but with that done, one of our children had to sit on a lap.
In terms of dining, the Solarium Bistro for breakfast was a stellar recommendation. Very fresh buffet and not as big and crowded as Wind Jammer. Not many people seem to know it is complementary for breakfast and ok for children in the bistro, although the Solarium otherwise is from 16y and up. Another fantastic option is the complementary room served breakfast, where you have a lot to choose from, although no form of eggs or warm breakfast without an extra charge. This was perfect on the days we were to arrive very early in Ports - we could have the breakfast delivered as early as 6:30 (earlier?) and enjoy the food and the sunrise and watch the port as we were getting closer. The Wind Jammer is a very busy place, which in my opinion is a more stressful option (goes for all meals).
Lunch options are quite a few, where Park Café definitely became a favorite. Great grilled sandwiches, fresh fruit cups and good speciality coffee (although at extra cost).
We chose My Time Dining, which absolutely was the right deal for us. We notice that we differ from many Americans, who value having the same server the entire cruise. We did not have to plan around our meal time, and as we tried the two My Time Dining options, in terms of the MDR (The Silk and Icon Grill), we never had to wait long for a table. Our servers where friendly although a couple times surprisingly neutral or plainly uninterested. Half of the time, they did not seem concerned about checking on us, and forgot drink orders quite a few times - mainly for the children. We were happy with the food in most cases. I would not call it very fine dining, although I was continuously impressed about how the could cook and serve so many people at the same time. Considering this, I had not expected higher quality.
We did look into options of drinking packages prior to our trip. For us, this was not a preferred deal and we concluded our choice to try glass wines in the MDR to be a good one. We did learn that it was possible to buy a bottle and save it for upcoming dinner(s), which we chose not to. We enjoyed trying a different glass (or two) with each meal. It seemed as many travelers enjoyed many colorful drinks and beers already from early hours around the pool, so for some their calculation may lead to going for the drink deals. In terms of sodas, (although I did not actively look for them) the coke machines where not plentiful, and if you decide to buy an all-you-can-drink version there, I heard it is good to prepare for some lines.
In terms of the pools - I unfortunately had high hopes for the pool areas. Our children LOVE swimming and playing in water. The water fun park was unfortunately for toddlers, with water level up to the ankles. There were a couple "water guns" with a weak, barely existing beam a few feet in front of you. The remaining pools had rules, where the rules pertaining to children were strongly enforced (no jumping, no throwing a ball, no drinks even when sitting on the edge etc). But the rules of showering before entering, only 21 people in the pool (I counted 40! big grown ups at times), drinks in the pool (very many adults brought their drinks into the pools) were constantly ignored by the life guards who only blew their whistle at children. We do always look after our children and do not let them out of our sight, as well as make sure they act respectfully. I understand this is not always the case and I can understand the safety issues behind the rules, but I cannot understand why there was not a more kids friendly pool at all. And being a health professional, I can not understand the disregard for health/hygiene issues. My children stayed in the crammed pools and tried to swim, as there were no other options, resulting in eye infections as well as a couple other infections. I never saw any measurements or water sampling going on. Hopefully, I just missed them.
I also realized I may be getting older (43), but the music in the pool areas was fairly loud. I wish it had not constantly been playing, as I many times had a hard time relaxing in a sun chair or reading a book.
In terms of the entertainment on board, we were impressed. We saw "Mamma Mia", "Blue Planet", an ice skating show, and two water shows. All with impressive talents. We loved the free seating concept. It is good though to book the majority of the shows months (!) or at least several weeks in advance. Also a big plus for yummy popcorn outside the Amber Theatre (not complimentary though).
While in the Ports, we had decided not to join any shore excursions. In St Marteen, we took a water taxi to the first stop and found a hotel by the beach which we had heard of - Holland House. A nice and stylish hotel where we got sunbeds, an umbrella, 4 drinks and wifi for 25USD. They also had a great lunch restaurant (cheaper options along the street, but probably nothing better).
In Puerto Rico, we went with the free city tram from stop nr 12 (avoid the crowds at the stops by the boat). (Google "Tram puerto rico" to find good info from the city's homepage - Old San Juan trolley). This will take you to the old town and the Fort, etc.
In Labadee, we enjoyed our day mainly on Nikki Beach (beware VERY crowded in the water, leading to significantly less clear water as the day went by). We also played quite a lot of Beachvolley and the kids played in the water playground next to the beachvolley court. The playgound had nice fountains and a fun water bucket mobile. We did hear about the pushy salespeople on the market, but still took the little trolley there after the complimentary lunch buffet organized by Royal Caribbean. There were some arts and crafts, hats and bracelets. The people were asking you repeatedly to come look at their stand/products, but they were friendly. I did not feel unsafe or pushed. What to remember is the extreme poor society which is just outside the walls and barbwire of this manmade beach Paradise constructed by RC. There is a limited, set amount of servers/sales people that in a controlled manner get to come inside these walls everyday, hoping to get small crumbs of our riches.
Back on the ship our last day, we decided to try some of the activities we hadn't yet tried: the surf simulator and the zip line (my daughter was sad to learn she was too short) and the climbing wall. Those were very fun activities. We were pleasantly surprised about the relatively short lines we had to wait in. Other acitivities we tried were mini golf (several rounds, ok quality course), table tennis (fun, but fairly low quality on tables and rackets), soccer and basketball (same court). A few days we did get to go to the gym, which was very nice. It takes a little to get used to running on a treadmill on a moving boat! But it was lovely to do so with an ocean view. Also, there was a running/walking track on deck 5, which went all around the boat - great!
Lastly, disembarkation: we were as impressed as with embarkation. Very professionally organized. We had left our bags outside our room before 11pm, and only carried a couple small carry-ons with us as we walked off the ship. The bags waited for us, clearly marked, in a huge arrival hall once we were off the ship.
Now, the last question (I still ask myself) is whether I will go again. I must say that much of my impressions were positive. It is such a convenient form of traveling, offering the possibility to have it all around you, while being taken to new places. Yet, I have several times since we came back reflected about the - in my eyes - grouse pool situation and the lacking hygiene. This is an issue, I have not yet decided if I want to deal with again.
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