We booked this cruise in July for our family of 4, including a 16 year old son and a 20’s something daughter. My husband and I had cruised on Royal Caribbean (Navigator) about 7 years ago and loved it and wanted to share a special ... Read More
We booked this cruise in July for our family of 4, including a 16 year old son and a 20’s something daughter. My husband and I had cruised on Royal Caribbean (Navigator) about 7 years ago and loved it and wanted to share a special vacation with our kids this time. When we booked this summer there were no more balcony rooms available so we choose adjoining interior staterooms without windows. We figured we wouldn’t be in our rooms much, anyway! We really wanted one of the Oasis class ships due to all the bells and whistles, since we had some youthful cruisers along and we chose Thanksgiving week to coincide with school and work time off. So the Allure it was! A few weeks before the trip we were emailed that we could “Royal Up” and bid for a better room. We decided to go for it and got both rooms upgraded to ocean-view balconies! Super excited because we paid less for these than we would have if we had booked them originally. Our rooms were no longer next to each other, but this was not an issue since our kids are older and we were on the same floor and pretty convenient to one another. Also, the RC app worked great for texting one another all week so we did not purchase “Voom“ and didn’t miss it one bit! The upgraded rooms were probably the biggest treat for us since we LOVED the balconies for viewing the beautiful Caribbean sunsets, having our coffee in the morning, and just watching the action as we sailed into and out of the ports-of-call!
We flew into Ft. Lauderdale the day before and enjoyed a beautiful day on the beach there, (very impressed with the North Beach area) then took an Uber to the cruise terminal around 11am on Sunday morning. We were super impressed with how quickly the embarkation process went. We were on the ship within 30 minutes of being dropped off and didn’t even have to touch our luggage, other than our backpacks and carry-ons. (Yay - because I packed way too much stuff!)
Once we boarded the ship we headed for Guest Services to book the shows that I wasn’t able to pre-book (I had waited until about 2 weeks before and a lot of the slots were full, but they always hold a few hundred seats for booking while on the ship) ate lunch, and were in our staterooms by 1:00 with our luggage arriving by 4 - 5pm.
The rooms were clean and comfortable and our location (on the 6th floor and near the aft elevators) was perfect, quiet, and super convenient all week long! We were all impressed with how strong the water pressure in the showers was. Both stateroom attendants were wonderful and friendly as well.
On our first cruise we did the late dining in the MDR and loved eating all week at the same table with a fun group of cruisers from all over the world (it was a Mediterranean cruise and had many more international passengers and not so many kids due to time of year-October) But for this cruise we chose “My Time Dining” and I was uncertain if we’d have long waits because a few nights we didn’t have set reservations due to shows we wanted to attend. On the first night we showed up around 5:45 to get a table before an 8:00 show. That was the only night we had to wait, and then only 5 minutes and we were seated. The rest of the week we showed up on or about 15 minutes before our reserved time (or just whenever we wanted on the nights with no reservations) and each night we got right in and they sat us in the same area, with 2 great waiters that took good care of us and were delightful to get to know! We didn’t buy any of the specialty dining packages and were content with our evening meals in the American Icon MDR. We were actually very pleased with the food and the service. The formal nights were fun and as dressy as you wanted them to be. Also, they did serve a traditional Thanksgiving dinner if you wanted that on Thursday.
We went to all the shows and especially loved Mam Mia (amazing) and the Headliner show with the Mo5aics - also amazing! The diving show, ice skating show, and Blue Planet were great, too. We’re not drinkers but we really enjoyed hanging out in the clubs and bars when there was trivia (super fun), karaoke, or live music to listen and dance to!
The activities and sports features on the ship are amazing. My son spent most of his time on the basketball court but we all enjoyed the zip line, pools, flow-rider, and rock climbing wall. The basketball court was occasionally used for soccer or other games so sometimes not available, to his dismay! He didn’t hang out much in the teen club (too introverted) but they had lots of nice activities there too. We girls loved the spa ( they have some pretty good discounts for massages during the week-still expensive but sooo relaxing!) and we all used the gym and running track. (The very back of the track -deck 5- has a few chairs and provides great views while sailing and is usually quiet & not crowded!)
We tried room service for breakfast, as well as Johnny Rockets, and the MDR. All were fine. The MDR had a nice buffet each morning. We lunched in the Windjammer, the Solarium Café, and Sorrento's. Getting an early morning hot cup of coffee from Boardwalk Donuts (6j or the Cafe Promenade (5) was super convenient from our location on the ship.
I constantly saw the cleaning crews wiping handrails, door knobs, windows, tables, & cleaning the public restrooms and the ship seemed super clean all week. I was surprised to see so many families with small children but they all seemed pretty well behaved and it looked like they were having a blast in a very safe and fun environment. I think a lot of families chose the early (5:30 seating) in MDR so most of our mealtimes were relatively quiet!
My husband and son did the “all access tour“ ($130 each) and loved it. It took them all over the ship. My daughter and I did the galley tour and champaign brunch ($30 each) which we enjoyed as well. Our galley tour was not as thorough as the guys’ tour but still very interesting and brunch was delightful and leisurely and we really enjoyed chatting with the other cruisers over brunch!
Our favorite part about cruising is the time at sea and this trip was no exception, The days and nights can be as relaxing or as entertaining and exciting as you want to make them. There is never a lack of things to do. We hardly ever felt this massive ship moving and we were never seasick, nor did we need bug spray-but sunscreen, yes!
Our first stop was the island of St. Maarten where we took the horseback riding tour and enjoyed our time there, especially cooling off in the ocean with our horses! Then we just strolled the streets and enjoyed the beautiful beach. Lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe was good but pricey and the service was pitiful. We were pretty disappointed with that choice, wishIng we had chosen a no-name local cafe and had tried some tasty island food!
It was Thanksgiving Day when we were in port at San Juan so the National Park Historic Sites (El Morro fort & castle) were closed. We just walked around, enjoyed the views and were really quite pleasantly surprised ant how nice Old San Juan was. (No evidence of hurricane damage here!) The architecture is beautiful, colorful and we enjoyed checking out the local stores. Several were open for tourists! All these sites are just a few minutes’ walk from the cruiseship port. Another plus was that our cell service worked in PR so we got in a few emails and texts back home for holiday greetings! We only had a half day there, and truthfully, we would have really enjoyed a full day in San Juan and maybe a shorter day at St. Maarten.
Our last day was spent at RC’s “Perfect Day at Cocoa Cay”! What a pretty, clean and colorful island. RC has done a great job of developing this island and we loved our day there. It was safe, sunny and pleasant (75*) but the water was pretty cool! We did the reef snorkeling boat tour AS WELL AS purchased a full-day thrill waterpark pass. Biggest tip here!!! If you’re spending the money on a full day pass, don’t do any other tours! After exploring the island and sunning a bit, we spent about 2 1/2 hours on the tour and had only about 2 hours overall for the waterpark. We didn’t get onto the island until 11:00 am and had to be back on the boat at 5:30 pm. We only ended up doing 2 special slides due to the long lines and by the time we were free to eat lunch the grill had closed up for the day! So, do one or the other, or just a half-day pass, and save yourself bundles!
Also, the waterpark only wanted to see our sea passes, not the tickets, while the boat tour only wanted to see our tickets, not our sea passes! So FYI, have both with you at all times to avoid running back and forth from your chair or locker! And bring cash! We wanted to upgrade our snorkel masks to full-face masks on the boat and they only took cash- $10 per person, which we barely had, not thinking we’d need cash there. The snorkeling was nice, and the water beautiful & clear but not nearly as colorful as Hawaii or Honduras, so a little underwhelming. That tour (1:45-4:00) was longer than it needed to be with a lot of down time after the snorkeling and everyone was freezing!! They did give us a glass of (rum) punch and let us wade in shallow water on a nice sandbar. The guides were interesting, fun, and informative! The Cocoa Cay beaches and pools were beautiful, with plenty of shade trees, free chairs and free lockers, as well. You must check out your towel(s) from the boat and return them to the boat but you can exchange the wet ones for dry ones all you want while on the island.
Disembarkation was also very easy. We needed to get off early to catch a 9 am flight and that was no problem altho you will get off quicker if you roll your own luggage off, (6:30 on). Next time I’ll definitely pack lighter! We were group # 2 and were able to leave the ship by 7:30. I think 9:30 was the latest anyone got off. Fortunately for us, our flight was delayed about an hour so that really helped, but no lines and taxis waiting right outside were a real plus! A $15 ride to the airport and we were off with an hour to spare!
All good things must come to an end but we look forward to another cruise with Royal Caribbean some day and would highly recommend this cruise for families! Read Less