We have previously done Halloween cruises on Oasis and Harmony of the Seas. The Halloween party on Oasis still remains the best. The party on Allure was much like the one on Harmony and lacked the planning, execution of the show as on Oasis. Without a stage like they had on Oasis it was difficult to see the entertainment or even the passengers that decided to parade in their costumes. On Oasis they selected and announced the best costumes at the party while on Allure they made an announcement days later which was very anticlimactic. It was still a lot of fun getting slightly dressed up as we did and seeing all the folks who really went all out, some showing a great deal of creativity and having a great time.
The entertainment was outstanding. Again the live music and musicians on Allure make the difference. From the ships "orchestra" to the Jazz club quartet live music remains the one factor that separates Royal Caribbean from all the others, to include Disney, who use canned, recorded music in practically all their venues. The variety and quality of the shows is what keeps us coming back to the mega ships. The only criticism of the entertainment is of the comedians. Having spent nearly 23 years in the military my ears have been exposed to plenty of vulgar language. On occasion even I have been required to use explicit language myself just to get my point across, however using a certain word in every sentence in order to be funny get's old real quick and is I believe used as a substitute for real humor, used by a lazy comedian that really wouldn't be funny without shock effect of the vulgarity.
Dining has definitely taken a less than positive turn on RCI since we started cruising over 17 years ago. Unfortunately it appears if you want the quality and amenities that were standard years ago you must pay extra for "specialty dining" in one of the ships restaurants. On Allure we requested a table for two, even backing up our request through Crown and Anchor, and of course found that our request was ignored. We know the drill, going to the MDR first thing once on board, ask for a table for two. We were given a table for two on deck three, the main deck of the MDR. This area on most ships has been where the "Captains Table" is set up and the grand staircase ends. On Allure this area now is set up like the school lunchroom, rows of tables, set side by side that permits the staff to slide them together to accommodate a variety of group sizes as people with my-time dining drift in and out during the evening. The grand staircase is gone. While the decor is suppose to be modern there are no drapes or any other soft, sound absorbent materials thus the room is very noisy. Speaking of noise, this is the one area where RCI has eliminated live musicians instead opting for recorded music. The "music" was terrible, techno crap, best suited for working out in the gym, way to loud, eliminating any hope for even a modicum of dining ambiance. Our hearts went out to our outstanding wait staff who tried their best to have some class and flare however it is readily apparent that RCI management is trying to reduce them to the level of the wait staff at your local Applebees. For example, instead of being served a selection of breads and warm rolls by the assistant waiter, you now have a small basket of bread on the table with a very limited selection. Even O'Charley's bring fresh, out of the oven rolls to your table. The quality of the MDR food was good. While the entrees in Chops and Giovaonni's were more extensive, more like the food served in the MDR over a decade ago and the choices were limited. The service was outstanding and for the most part it was closer to what you might expect in a more upscale restaurant, however there is no guarantee that you will pay big bucks and not end up with the family of loud story tellers, crying babies, etc. (We have experienced this in the past.) It is my opinion that the entire experience is only worth it if you get it as a perk or use the BOGO you may get depending on your Crown and Anchor status. To each their own.
We are still cruisers, on our way to Harmony for a News Years cruise but knowing what to expect and lowering our expectations. While we still enjoy the chance to get away and be waited on we have come to realize that RCI no longer is catering to our demographic, trying to nickle and dime everyone with an upcharge for everything while being cheap in almost everything they provide. Instead RCI and the ships management are concentrating on the "whales" in the big spender suites or accommodating the flip-flop, tattooed, cell phone addicted who think that a vacation means any form of decorum or common courtesy is an inconvenience at best and and affront to their individuality and self absorbed, self entitled world. (Sorry if I stepped on a few toes.)
Almost forgot. We decided to do the three hour Beach Break excursion in Falmouth. We were using non-refundable on board spending money so the fact that we paid $75 +tip to go to a crowded beach made the whole thing okay as a diversion to the shops at the port but not something to be recommended.
Crown and Anchor has become a joke. The Diamond lounge is limited and always crowded. It's actually being moved and all but going away on Allure when she's in dry dock next Spring. To placate those who have been "Loyal to Royal" for more than a dozen cruises, in our case over 230 points, and chose not to scramble for a seat in the lounge, you get three complimentary drinks during "happy hour" every evening. Unfortunately the selections are limited and the bottom of the barrel wines are all that is served. Have you ever seen Tisdale wine? It's the "4 buck chuck" you will find on the bottom shelf of your local grocery store. To say that RCI has reduced their C&A benefits to the bone would be an understatement. Even the kitchen tour and theater tours have been reduced to a brief walk through at best. The performers who showed up to answer questions were very good and patient trying to answer questions but the tour began and ended on stage with a brief walk through the backstage area. In years past we were given a tour of the Aqua theater with skaters and divers included to answer questions. The kitchen tour was late in the afternoon, very limited, lasting less than 30 minutes but still makes one wonder how they pull it off every day. The C&A program is truly minimal as once again RCI has chosen to concentrate on their suite big spenders, the "whales" as one put it, while treating their most loyal customers as a secondary priority. Once upon a time the Captain would dine with the passengers in the MDR however this is no longer the case. Never actually saw the Captain except at the very limited C&A event at the Aqua Theater. If I was a gambler I'd bet any time he and the officers spend with passengers is again limited to the big spenders, rubbing shoulders to the "rich and famous" (?) that occupy restricted areas that once were open to all. (Remember the Viking Lounge?)
Reading the critiques of RCI on this board one finds that experienced cruisers are no longer overwhelmed by Royal Caribbean, many reporting that their experience with Royal is not even up to par with Carnival, with many rating their experience on Princess or Holland America superior to Royal Caribbean. Ten years ago this was all but unheard of. Makes one wonder who RCI management is listening to. They obviously are not reading this board much less the critiques they encourage us to provide after your cruise. We are looking elsewhere for a European Cruise next summer.
Excellent cabin attendant.
Overdeveloped, money grab.
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