We'd been on a Royal Caribbean cruise before and had a great time, but this trip we walked away with a few disappointments. If you want to lounge in the pool on sea days, then maybe the Allure isn't for you. Because of the open Central Park in the center of the ship, all the pools on board are quite small. During sea days when everyone is on board, the pools feel more like sardine cans with everyone crammed in and they were not at all enticing.
We are foodies, so we were excited about all the dining opportunities on the Allure. But my husband needs to eat gluten free, and that ended up being a pretty big problem. We filled out the special needs form ahead of our trip, and we were advised that we could just inform our servers and we'd be fine. However, we walked away with the impression that most of the staff on the ship had no clue what was and wasn't gluten free. There were a few meals my husband ate that should've been gluten free, and his body told him they were not. There was even an instance at Coastal Kitchen where an appetizer was marked gluten free on the menu, and our server came back to use and said the chef told her that item was not gluten free. It's marked as such on THEIR MENU! Those issues aside, if you have any sort of dietary restriction, I'd think twice about this ship. Even though there are multiple restaurants on board, the gluten free offerings were suspiciously the same for the most part (aka, shrimp cocktail as an appetizer and chicken with a thyme sauce for an entree).
That brings me to the beverages. If you order the same drink from three different bartenders, you'll walk away with three different beverages. The drink-making quality was very hit and miss. There were even times when I ordered a basic drink (ex, a mojito) and I couldn't even drink it it was so bad. Had I not had the all-inclusive drink package, I would've been upset and demanded they make me another one. My best advice — find a bartender you like early in the week and make him or her your bud. Our best bud was Charlie in the Schooner Bar. That bar had a wide variety of liquor and mixer options, plus bitters and other traditional bar ingredients. My husband works in the restaurant industry, so we know how to make good, classic drinks. With Charlie, we were able to explain what we wanted, and would make it exactly that way.
One thing the Royal staff has going for them is their customer service. Across the board, everyone on the ship was friendly and courteous. The ship is also very clean and has a lot to explore. Our 12-year-old had a great time with all the teen activities and enjoyed being able to run around the ship with her new friends. The one caveat I'll give to other parents is make sure your children understand what's included on the ship and what costs money. For example, our daughter went to the arcade one evening with friends and racked up a $50 arcade bill by swiping her SeaPass. She knew she was spending some money, but as a kid she didn't exactly keep track of how much.
Royal Caribbean has an app that's very helpful to keep track of your spending on board. It also allows you to message with other guests *without* having to pay for VOOM (their on-board internet). One note for parents with their app, children 12 years old and younger are *not* allowed to use the messaging portion of their app. Our daughter could see the events schedule and add things to the calendar, but she couldn't use the messaging feature. I understand the security concerns Royal has with young kids being able to chat anyone on board. But I feel like they should adjust their app permissions to allow kids under 12 to at least message with the other people in their stateroom. I ended up signing into my account on our daughter's phone so she could message us while on board (since my husband and I were together most of the time).
One other piece of advice, be sure you *always* get a receipt. Whether it's an onboard charge, or when you check liquor purchases you make at port. One the last night, our liquor purchases were delivered to our room, but three bottles we purchase in Cozumel were missing. Luckily our stateroom attendant was right down the hall, so we flagged her and let her know. Within 30 min, she had found our bottles and had them in our room. The staff at the port had marked them with the wrong room number. Without our attendant, Lovelace, I'm not sure we would've have ever gotten those bottles! (and the staff at the port didn't give us a receipt for them when we checked back in to get on the ship... so we might have been S.O.L.)
The onboard entertainment was pretty good. The Mama Mia cast was wonderful, and we even hung out with some of them a bit while they enjoyed some time off at one of the bars on the ship. However, I will say the ice skating show was the least exciting, and I love ice skating typically. We just felt the quality of the performance didn't match the other shows on the ship.
And finally, we're not super experienced cruisers, so maybe this is typical for the industry — but I did feel like we were nickel-and-dimed on board. This is especially true for their private ports, like ours in Labadee, Haiti. Just about everything at the port costs money. An hour at their blow-up beach park? $20 each. One ride on the roller coaster? $27 each. But it also happened plenty of places on the ship. For example, they have a popcorn station on the deck with the two main theaters, but the small carton of popcorn costs $2.50. Seriously? After all the money everyone has paid to get on the ship, you can't include some simple popcorn in the cost?!? Come on, now. And as I mentioned earlier, people with kids who have their own SeaPass cards need to be sure their kids know what is and is not included!
Our cabin was great, and our stateroom attendant (Lovelace) was wonderful!! Since we were traveling with three people in one room, we paid for the upgraded Junior Suite and that was a great decision. Our room setup had a curtain divider between the main bed and the sofa bed, which provided for a little privacy while sleep. But the extra square footage was definitely a bonus. It was also great to have a shower with a tub and a walk-in closet with plenty of room for us all to unpack. I had read online that the pullman beds were more comfortable than the sofa beds, but our pullman bed pulled down from the ceiling directly over the king size bed. We decided we did NOT want to have our 12-year-old sleeping directly above our heads. But she didn't have any complaints about the sofa bed, and it was pulled out for her and put away for us every day by our stateroom attendant.
Be prepared to pay for just about anything you want to do, except grab yourself a regular chair and sit in the sun.
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