Allure of the Seas Photos from the Shipyard

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    Walking onto Allure of the Seas, I expected to see a construction site with only barely recognizable pieces of a cruise ship. Was I wrong! According to Royal Caribbean, the ship is ahead of schedule, and at 8.5 weeks prior to delivery, it looks like it's only two weeks from launch. Here you can see some very finished looking Boardwalk-facing balconies, and to the right the very beginnings of the mini-golf course.

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    The scene in this loft cabin is how I expected to find the ship -- wires everywhere, piles of construction materials, missing furniture. (Note, however, that a flat-screen TV has already been installed in the upstairs bedroom area!) But elsewhere on the ship we saw cabins that looked ready to sleep passengers tonight -- with carpeting, bedding and artwork in place. There were even bathrobes and slippers waiting for us in the closet.

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    How will Allure be different from Oasis? The differences are minor, but Lisa Bauer, Royal Caribbean's senior vice president, hotel operations, said Allure emphasizes entertainment. Here in the very completed theater, passengers will be able to experience 3D movies (including first-run DreamWorks movies free of charge) and the first ever at-sea production of the musical, "Chicago." Every show will run three times during a cruise, some with matinee performances. Apparently, Chicago's producers did not want to give Royal Caribbean rights to perform the show at sea ... until they were totally wowed by the theater on Oasis.

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    Studio B has a ghostly air, with all its seating still covered in plastic. Two new shows will include "Ice Games,' loosely based on the board game Monopoly, and a show based on the DreamWorks animated film, "How to Train Your Dragon." Don't worry if your kids want to do all the DreamWorks events, like the 3D movies, ice shows and character breakfasts -- none of these events carry an extra surcharge.

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    Allure will also introduce some new dining venues for the cruise line. The Solarium Bistro, which is found on Oasis, will continue to serve healthy spa cuisine for breakfast and lunch, but at night it will turn into a Brazilian churrascuria, presenting a meaty feast for $25. Waiters will don gaucho outfits and circulate with a variety of meat on skewers. (Veggie options and an enormous salad bar will also be available. Want just the salad bar? You'll pay $15). A live band will play Brazilian music. It will also be a perfect spot for dinner with a view of the sunset. Hmm, expanded entertainment and Brazilian restaurant -- it all seems very reminiscent of another innovative ship, Norwegian Epic!

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    The Boardwalk is not quite as finished as other areas of the ship, but here you see the beginnings of yet another new restaurant, Rita's Cantina, a family-friendly Mexican eatery (with a dining surcharge of $7.95). Royal Caribbean execs are getting excited for the upcoming chips and salsa tasting -- I wouldn't mind helping out with the task of picking the perfect guacamole, myself. Also new to the Boardwalk will be the Dog House, a no-fee hot dog stand. (You can also see in this photo that the carousel has not arrived onboard yet -- you can make out its foundation in the foreground.)

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    Allure of the Seas won't hold any art auctions, but you can buy playful and colorful artwork by Romero Britto in his very first gallery at sea. His shop in Allure's Central Park "neighborhood" wasn't ready yet, so he's posing in the Coach boutique with a painting commissioned by Royal Caribbean. (Also pictured is Lisa Bauer, who is threatening to install the painting in her living room.) Limited editions of this print will be on sale, as well as one of Britto's signature bears, created especially for Royal Caribbean.

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    Romero Britto's paintings are not the only fun-loving artwork on Allure's walls. I found this zany photo outside the London tube-themed comedy club in the Entertainment District. The Adventure Ocean kids' club is painted with whimsical scenes (such as farm animals exploring a big city) and in one hallway was a photo of a person reading a book entitled "How to Be in the Moment" next to another book, "How to Be in the Moment After That." Even the construction team got into the spirit by adding their doodles onto protective sheeting.

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    The Royal Promenade is shaping up quite nicely, but what you don't see are the new kiosks being installed near the reception desk. At these stations, passengers will be able to check the daily schedule, look up their cruise account and even print airline boarding passes. Another fun piece of trivia: Not all of the windows lining the Promenade are real. While some are actually Promenade-facing cabins, others are faux windows that hide elevator shafts and other behind-the-scenes areas.

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    What's this giant cocoon doing in the main dining room? No, it will not hatch a new DreamWorks dragon -- it's actually the nearly one ton, Austrian-made chandelier. Because it's so heavy, the chandelier has to be added early in the construction process, so it's in place while the chairs and tables are in plastic-coated piles throughout the restaurant. The three-deck dining room on Allure will have just shy of 3,000 seats, and Decks 3 and 4 will be reserved for traditional dining with Deck 5 for My Time Dining.

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    And if anyone with tickets to the current "inaugural" cruise is getting a little nervous about how close to completion the ship is, never fear. Adam Goldstein, Royal Caribbean's President and CEO, assured us that the line is locked into its schedule of crew training and pre-inaugural events, so that even if the ship is ready ahead of time, the date of the inaugural will not change (again). And if you can't wait for the ship to be completed, you can always book a sailing on older sister Oasis!

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