Here's the quick and dirty. (Scroll down for further details)
CABINS: 7022 & 7020 (neighboring balconies port bow deck 7)
PORTS: 7 Nights - Ft Lauderdale, Coco Cay, Cozumel, Costa Maya, Nassau (a substitute for Honduras), and back to Ft Lauderdale
PERSPECTIVE: 4 adults ages ranging from 42-70. 2 of the 4 have cruised before. 2 of the 4 were first time cruisers. My Time Dining & Deluxe Drink Package
• Ship felt continually crowded
• Big ship = LOTS of walking
• Bad logistics & crowd management during RCI booked shore excursion in Nassau
• Room steward was meh
• Reservation policy for dinner/entertainment was awful
• Inadequate seating in the Windjammer Buffet
• Lines, lines, and more lines
• App was unreliable
• Nice stateroom - loved the large (for cruise ships) shower
• Food & dining/bar service was both delicious and terrific
• Ship was clean
• Lots of neat things to do on board
• Embarkation & debarkation were a breeze
• Guest services staff were very accommodating
• Really smart muster drill
There were 4 of us on this trip: Hubs and I (4 previous cruises) and my folks (both first time cruisers). We stayed in 7022 and 7020 - both balconies on port bow side. As much as I scoured the RCI website, I couldn't find adjoining rooms so we settled for neighboring rooms. Rooms were nice - lots of storage options, ac worked well, clean room. Beds were a little firm for all of us. We met our room steward once and never saw him again. 2 of the nights we had no towel animals. But, room was always clean and restocked with the necessities.
The embarkation and debarkation were incredibly smooth and easy. Very little standing in lines. I think the whole process took maybe 30mins for on and again for off. Really impressed!
LOVED the muster drill RCI had set up. Instead of our muster station being some nondescript corridor or unmarked door, ours was the comedy club. This made it #1 easy to remember, #2 made us feel better prepared in the event of an actual emergency since we'd know exactly where to go, #3 no standing outside in the sun. In addition, RCI stores life jackets at the muster station so no more wasted closet space. The talk was actually a short but somewhat entertaining video. All these things combined actually made the muster drill enjoyable.....as unbelievable as that may seem.
The RCI policy of onboard reservations has got to go. It was frustrating, led you to believe there was no availability, and in the end resulted in 1st come 1st serve anyhow. If you're unfamiliar with the reservations policy, keep reading & I'll explain, otherwise, skip to the next paragraph. So if you plan your day - like on sea days - if you have my time dining, you're encouraged to make a reservation. And to attend all of the shows, you're encouraged to make a reservation. The problem is, we didn't encounter any availability via the App. Reservations then required a trip to guest services. I'm on vacation. I really don't want to spend my time waiting in line & I suspect you don't either. IF you're lucky enough to secure reservations then you must arrive to the event 15mins prior to start time. You'll be allowed entrance to pick your seat. 10mins before start time, ushers open the doors to the "public" who then come choose their seats. So basically, RCI just way over complicated the concept of 1st come 1st serve. Ugh - a total pain so buyer beware!
The food and drinks were wonderful. Tasty, unique, well presented, with a nice variety. The service was equally wonderful. Everyone was genuinely happy to help & put you right at ease.
This was the first time we ever did the alcohol drink package and holy crap it made such a difference! We're converts and will definitely be upgrading from now on. It was wonderful to not have that twinge of guilt for ordering a 2nd drink or minding the budget every day.
This was the first cruise we've ever been on which felt continually crowded. Even though the ship is huge, too big actually, it still felt constantly crowded. This had a major toll on the 4 of us. We were more irritable, snippy, and worn out from navigating the constant crowds. Our experience may have been skewed as an international (mostly Spanish speaking and European) health care company out of Canada was on this cruise. They numbered over 1,200 employees plus their friends and family members who joined them. I've traveled a lot and have found very few other cultures who seem to understand/respect American's "personal space". As a result, all week long not only was it crowded but your little my own space bubble was invisible and constantly overrun. Very exhausting.
The Blue Planet and Ocenaria shows were terrific! Don't bother with the ice show. It felt dated and is desperately ready for a revamp.
This ship has a lot of fun things to do. In addition to the plethora of bars & upcharge restaurants, there was the zip line, which my 67 year old Mom did, rock climbing, the flowrider surfing things, fun games of adult dodgeball, putt putt golf, a really neat kiddy pool, a carousel, and our favorites an adult only solarium with pool & 2 hot tubs, and an outdoor garden area called Central Park. That's the good news about this ship. The bad news is, it's so big it's actually difficult to navigate. For ships this large, why not install people movers like the moving sidewalks at an airport, or a looping cable car system, or how about a looping hop on hop off train? The massive ship required massive amounts of walking and by the end of the week, all 4 of us had tired & swollen feet, ankles, and calves.
We just vegged on the bench at Coco Cay. Unfortunately, our view from the shaded lounge chairs was blocked by a row of big beach beds. All of which went unused. Such a waste. Couldn't they leave the platform there and erect the bed once it's booked? From previous Holland America experience at Half Moon Cay where the hubs and I reserved and enjoyed a private cabana, RCI's beach beds and cabanas are sorely overpriced which is probably what rendered the beach beds unused. Seems like such a waste for all. Also, we found the food on Coco Cay lacking. It's a big buffet with limited choices. However, food wasn't kept warm and items weren't replenished in a timely manner, leaving you to scurry from station to station to complete your plate. Had RCI offered a sit down option, even for an upcharge, we would have jumped at it. The good news about Coco Cay was the full island transportation - so wonderful not to have to walk after being on the ship for a few days!
We did the Monster Jeep excursion in Cozumel and it was fantastic! Oscar and Irwin were our guides and they were excellent! So much fun. Highly recommend!
We didn't even get off the ship in Costa Maya as it was raining all day.
At Nassau, which was a substitute stop for Honduras announced this summer due to propeller problems, we did the Sea Lion Encounter. The encounter itself was terrific! The logistics, however, were a nightmare! The excursion was an RCI excursion on Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon (BL) staff all wore bright orange shirts but you couldn't see them because there were so many people. BL staff didn't carry or use signs so you had no idea where you were supposed to be. And the BL staff didn't use megaphones so you couldn't hear them. The walk to the ferry was quite long, particularly for folks like my Dad with arthritic knees. No alternative transportation was available for folks with mobility issues. The lining up for the ferry ride back and getting through "security" at the port was just as much a mess. Given this experience, I have no desire to ever return to Nassau.
All in all, this was a "just ok" for us cruise which was kind of disappointing since this was a 1st cruise for both of my folks. Given the opportunity, I wouldn't sail on the Allure again. And, as a result of this cruise, we will make sure to choose smaller ships in the future.