DW is a hygeniest and I am a golf professional in Naples, FL. We usually cruise May-September because of seasonal occupational restraints. We cruise because we love the atmosphere, the chance to see lots of different regions, and enjoy being pampered. We are not adrenaline junkies, but are not opposed to active excursions. We like touring and learning about the history of each place we visit.
Celebrity Summit Bermuda Cruise 8/28/16
After hearing how beautiful Bermuda is and how much we would like Celebrity Cruises, DW and I booked our first Bermuda and Celebrity cruise back in July of 2015 for an August 28, 2016, 7 night round trip to Bermuda from Bayonne (Cape Liberty), NJ. We booked a mid-ship balcony @ $1,344 and upgraded to their “Go Best” promotion for $300 pp. We received prepaid gratuities ($90 pp), 7 day Wi-Fi for 2 ($299 pp) and premium beverage packages ($455 pp). We also received $150 OBC pp. We then monitored the prices over the months and when the price dropped for the same cabin category, we contacted Celebrity. As a result of the price reduction, we were given the option of a refund of the difference in price, or an upgrade to Concierge Class in a similar category. We chose Concierge class and were treated to still more amenities. After a group cruise on the Allure of the Seas in June 2016, this cruise we traveled as a couple as we mostly do. While we missed the company of others, it afforded us some good “we/us” time.
Embarkation—We each traveled separately from our home in Naples, FL to the NY Metropolitan area to visit various family members. We met up in CT. Complicating my trip was a sudden and painful back injury which tempered some of our pre-cruise, familial activities. DW was a great nurse pre, during, and post cruise, and I was lucky to be with her (she’s been carrying me throughout our marriage anyway, so I think she’s used to it) LOL! On Sunday 8/28 we drove from CT to Newark to drop off our rental, then took a short cab ride from Newark airport to Cape Liberty ($70 including tip and tolls). We arrived at the terminal around 10:40. The check in and embarkation process was extremely quick and easy and we were on board by 11:00. It was swift and painless, the way we like it! For the first time ever, we ate lunch in the MDR as part of our Concierge Class perks. It was very good. The sail away under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and the views of NYC from NY Harbor were tremendous and made us homesick (DW is from Upstate NY, and I grew up in Sleepy Hollow, about 35 miles up the Hudson from our departure port).
Ship—The Summit, which debuted in 2001 is what we called a “Goldie Locks” ship. Not too big, not too small. It was just right. It has the layout and amenities of a larger ship, with the feel of a smaller cruise liner. There are no real bells and whistles on the Summit. The décor is modern without being “boutique.” The ship is elegant throughout. The Cosmopolitan Dining Room is a beautiful, 2 story layout covering the aft area of Decks 4 and 5. The Café al Bacio on Deck 5 was our favorite hangout for quiet entertainment, lattes, biscotti, and gelato. DW liked the Martini Bar/Crush and the “gourmet” martinis. Write your name in the ice that covers the bar. It was pretty neat. The Rendezvous Lounge on Deck 4 was nice for live entertainment. Cellar Masters Lounge on Deck 5 was a perfect place to enjoy a glass of vino while watching a classical duo perform Vivaldi, Brahms, and Chopin. The Casino has all the stuff you want, but the size limits the amount of table games they have. It was still nice as casinos go. The Emporium Shops on Deck 5 were not overly priced and had many nice items for purchase. Typical raffle activities in this small area made it very exciting at times! The 2 story Celebrity Theater had the feel of an old Vegas style venue with bench seating for two with tables. It’s nice for having an evening beverage while watching the shows. Revelations Lounge on Deck 11 forward was the spot for late night fun with music from live bands and tunes spun by DJ Gio. He was a hoot during the music trivia contests they staged there during the day (we actually won one of the contests)!
Outside, the pool deck (Deck 10) was crowded on sea days, but not overly so. If you’re looking for a little more peace and solitude, head forward to the Solarium (adults only) and the Thalassotherapy pool and hot tubs. The Solarium Café was a buffet with “healthy” choices for breakfast and lunch. The Rooftop Terrace on Deck 12 aft was a perfect place to hang out and watch the giant screen TV with movies and concerts shown. They have really nice outdoor furniture to make it feel like an outdoor living room. The only bad part about it is there’s no food and beverage service there. You have to go down two decks to the Oceanview Café or Sunset Bar to grab some refreshments.
Overall, the ship was clean and well maintained. Sure, there are some rust spots here and there, but it didn’t bother us. It’s all part of normal wear and tear for a sea going vessel. In no way should a little rust ruin your vacation. It’s not worth it.
Crew/Staff—We truly loved the crew and staff of the Summit. We were a bit disappointed when we found out that Captain Kate McCue was on vacation, but were quickly taken with her replacement, Captain Alex Papadopoulos. He and his officers were very communicative, friendly, professional, and very approachable. Captain Alex is also quite the comedian and we loved his sense of humor. The officers were also quite fun. They (including Captain Alex) routinely play pool volleyball against some lucky guests. It was a really fun time had by both guests and officers. Cruise Director Chris Sweets and Activities Director Luigi were upbeat, fun, and informative. The staff of the Summit all had smiles and always said hello/good morning/good afternoon/good evening.
We truly appreciated Captain Alex’s communication on his decision to depart Bermuda 9 hours early in order to get out in front of Tropical Storm Hermine. His letter delivered to our cabin, his ship-wide announcement, and his videotaped explanation of our course and timetable to Bayonne showed his professionalism and concern for the safety of his guests and his crew. While we lost a little time in port, we took it as an opportunity to enjoy another Sea Day and all the activities that go along with it.
Activities—CD Chris and his staff did a wonderful job of entertaining their guests with a variety of typical sea day and port day activities. The Celebrity Today daily planner was packed full of interesting things to do. Trivia, dance classes, cooking demonstrations, cooking challenges, interactive crew gatherings, art auctions, shop sales, raffles, outdoor movies and concerts, wine tasting, galley tours, and spa related activities were always scheduled and we never found ourselves bored or starved for something to do. Summit is not all tricked up with waterslides, rock climbing walls, carousels, bowling alleys or famous burger joints. Therefore, more of a traditional cruise experience exists on the Summit. We took advantage of these scheduled events more than we ever have on any other cruise and were glad we did.
Wi-Fi—Celebrity XCelerate Wi-Fi was very, very good. We were able to FaceTime from anywhere on the ship including our cabin and balcony. We were able to call, stream, post, text, and upload pictures and videos with little problem. Our GO BEST package included 7 day Wi-Fi for two. While in Bermuda and away from the ship, we utilized Verizon Travel Pass for $10 per day per phone and were also treated to excellent services and reception.
Service—We found the service on Celebrity and the Summit in particular to be outstanding. The entire crew and staff were quite attentive, positive, friendly, and accommodating. Our room steward Maria in our Concierge Class balcony state room was especially aware of my need for a constant supply of ice in our cabin to nurse an injured back. She was prompt with morning service and evening turn down, and the added treat of afternoon canapes was truly appreciated. While we had different waiters in the MDR due to Celebrity Select (anytime) dining, they were an excellent resource for nightly food recommendations, Bermuda must-sees, and provided tremendous service. They were truly interested in us as much as we were interested in them. They made us feel as if we’d known them for years. The bartenders, waiters, and waitresses throughout the Summit were all very pleasant and helpful.
Of particular note was the helpfulness of a Guest Relations staff member (name we can’t remember). Upon our return to the ship on the second day in port, we were informed the ship would be leaving early due to the projected path of Tropical Storm Hermine. We had rented a scooter for 3 days and were never made aware by the scooter company that they had a late night key return similar to those of rental car companies. Since the ship was leaving at 7:00 AM the next morning, we would have been unable to return our scooter to the office (really only about 500 yards from the dock). The Guest Services representative contacted the scooter company for us and arranged to have the keys to be retrieved through the Celebrity Port Agent for Bermuda. We actually waved good bye to our scooter from the Sunset Deck aft on sail away from Bermuda! Guest Services truly jumped on the grenade for us.
Staterooms—As mentioned earlier, we were upgraded from a 2B balcony stateroom to a 2C Concierge Class stateroom, #8086. The room was larger than we expected, with a flat screen TV, vanity, ¾ size couch, table, refrigerator, and a good size bathroom. The shower was larger than others we have had and the sink/vanity area had many storage areas. Storage throughout the cabin was great, and the faux wood finish made the room seem rather elegant. The balcony was approximately 5’ X 9’. It had some rust on it, but hey, it’s an ocean going vessel and by no means a deal breaker. Our room was truly an oasis at times for me while nursing my injured back. We were very pleased with this room all around.
Dining—We found the food on the Celebrity Summit to be quite good all over the ship. Each day we ordered room service for breakfast on the balcony. It was typical Continental variety along with some hot egg dishes to choose from. We regularly ordered the yogurt parfait, some seasonal fruit, croissants, assorted danish, and their tasty Lavazza coffee. It’s always a nice way to start the day. A cheery phone call from cabin services alerting us to the arrival of our food also served as our wake up call for the day. The main buffet, the Oceanview Café, had many different entrees and goodies from excellent pizza, sushi, fish and chips, carved roast beef and turkey, omelets, and many heavenly desserts that were quite tasty. The burgers at the Hotdog and Burger bar were really good. They were big, thick, juicy and ready to be gobbled. The Solarium Spa Cafe offered some healthy salads and smoothies (fee).
The Cosmopolitan Restaurant (MDR) provided us with a truly excellent dining experience. The menus varied each night and there was always something to treat the palate. There are three “permanent” entrees each night and the daily selections usually included fish, pork, chicken, beef, and pastas. All entrees and appetizers were scrumptious! We really like Select(anytime) dining as it affords us an opportunity to meet new wait staff and passengers from nearby tables each night. We met some really nice people because of this.
For the first time on any of our cruises, we did not eat in a Specialty Restaurant. The Tuscan Grille had a very nice menu, but did not bowl us over. QSine on Deck 11 seemed as if it would be more fun to experience with more than just 2 people since we heard it’s all about sharing each culinary concoction. We did not try Bistro on 5 either. We did eat one night off the ship in Hamilton that more than took the place of the Summit’s offerings, which we’ll touch upon later. It’s not that we didn’t want to experience the Summit’s specialty restaurants; it was just that the Cosmopolitan was really serving fine food and offering a great experience.
Children’s Clubs—No kids with us so nothing we can report on. We did notice that nearly all the children on board were well behaved and rarely unattended.
Entertainment—DW and I felt the entertainment onboard was outstanding. The house band “Bandmates” could really rock and played everything from disco, classic rock, salsa, and pop. They were great at getting everyone up and dancing. The classical duo was a nice alternative to hard charging dance music and provided a relaxing hour of entertainment every time they performed. Acoustic guitarist, Pete Henry sang everything from James Taylor to Jewell and was very good as well. We truly loved Peter Rosetti ‘s piano playing and vocals. We watched him every night. We missed both comedians in the Celebrity Theater, but were treated to a wonderful magic show and production show by Marcus Terrell who danced and belted out tremendous Motown tunes.
Bermuda—Day 1 Bermuda--Having heard so much positive information about Bermuda made us wonder if it could actually live up to all the hype. It did! After 2 sea days, we stationed ourselves on our balcony for our arrival at King’s Wharf at 8:00 AM. We were giddy with anticipation after seeing the most beautiful waters we’ve ever seen including those in Hawaii and many Caribbean Islands. Also for the first time, we planned no organized excursions and set about to tour the islands on our own. We were off the ship by 9:15 and headed straight over to Oleander’s Cycles to pick up, suit up, and train up for our 3 day scooter rental. After some brief instruction, we were out to explore the Royal Naval Dockyard and head to the southern and central part of the islands. After a quick jaunt around the Dockyard to get our bearings, our first stop was Church Bay Beach. Here we found a gorgeous, virtually desolate beach down the hill from South Shore Road. The beach was nearly empty and the sand was pink and beautiful. We snorkeled for about an hour with maybe a dozen or so other folks. It was wonderful. There are no services here except for outhouse style changing rooms so bring some food and H20 if you plan on staying for an extended period of time. We then motored along South Shore road and came upon Horseshoe Beach. It’s the largest and most popular with “visitors.” It was very crowded and we just hopped up on the rock outcroppings to snap some photos and take some video. We then used the rest of the afternoon to tour Warwick and Southampton parishes via our scooter.
After a quick shower aboard the Summit, we then boarded the ferry to Hamilton to experience the Harbor Nights Festival on Front Street. We ate dinner at the Barracuda Grille above the Hog Penny on Burnaby St. It was an excellent choice and rated #1 by TripAdvisor. It was expensive, but well worth it. After dinner we enjoyed the street festival and purchased some wonderful local artwork and jewelry. A lovely night time ferry ride back to the Dockyard gave us some time to have some night life fun on the Summit.
Day 2 Bermuda—We loaded our trusty scooter on the ferry to Hamilton in the morning and set out on our adventure to explore St. George’s and the towns and sights of the Eastern parishes. We headed directly to the Crystal Caves north of Flatts Village. It was truly amazing. We did about a 35 minute tour of the sight and it was well worth the cost ($20 roughly). We then headed up past the Swizzle Inn on our way toward the far reaches of St. George’s. It is a lovely town on the far end of the islands. We stopped at Ft. St. Catherine’s for a tour of the fort. Right next to the fort is Ft. St. Catherine Beach. It was a gorgeous beach and no one was there! Head here if you want some solitary beach time. We then made our way over to Tobacco Bay Beach. It was also very nice. There were a lot more people there as they have a bar/restaurant/restrooms/beach rentals, etc. We did some wonderful snorkeling there. The Smokehouse Burger at the restaurant was big enough for both of us to share one.
Back on the trusty scooter, we made our way along the North Shore road and enjoyed the sights of the East End. We hopped on Harrington Sound Road and made our way on South shore Road to our next destination, the Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse back in Warwick parish. The leisurely trip took about 45 minutes and was one of the most beautiful rides we’ve ever taken. The houses, landscapes, and seascapes are truly outstanding. We climbed up Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse ($3.00? ea.) and were treated to the best views of Bermuda. You can see from the Dockyard all the way up to St. George’s. It’s a must do if you have time. We popped into Henry VIII’s for a Dark and Stormy and a Pellegrino (me) and motored back to the Dockyard for some sightseeing and shopping. The Clock Tower Mall, the Bermuda Glass Works shop, and the shops and exhibits at the Cooperage were all worth popping into. Don’t Miss the Frog and Onion for the best Fish and Chips. We were going to have dinner at the Bone Fish right next to the ship, but for some reason decided not to. Shortly after we returned to the ship around 6 PM, Captain Alex announced that the Summit would be leaving King’s Wharf early in order to beat the effects and projected path of TS Hermine.
We departed Bermuda at 7:00 AM on Friday 9/2 and began a rough steam back to Bayonne. Seas were 6-9 feet and it was pretty tough going. Saturday 9/3 the steam back to Bayonne continued, but the ride was much smoother. Captain Alex had put enough distance between the Summit and the advancing storm and was able to decrease the ship’s speed which made for a much smoother ride.
Disembarkation—We arrived back in Bayonne at 10:00 PM, which was nine hours earlier than scheduled. Passengers spent the night on the Summit and began the disembarkation process at 7:00AM. Since we were booked on a Celebrity transfer to Newark airport, we had one of the later times to leave the ship. After a quick, but hearty breakfast in the Oceanview Café, we waited our time to depart in the Celebrity Theater. We were off the ship by 8:45 and at Newark airport by 9:30 to wait for our flight back to FL. The process, including Customs and transfer, was quick and easy.
Summary—We truly loved this cruise for many reasons. Cruising out of Cape Liberty afforded us some wonderful views of NYC and NY Harbor. It is truly one of the best places to cruise from view-wise. Bermuda is a fantastic destination and a must see for those who’ve never been. We definitely want to revisit and can see ourselves going back many times. It was wonderful to spend two nights in port and not have to worry about racing back to the ship. It also provided us with the ability to try to experience things that were off the beaten path. “Travel like a local”, like Rick Steves likes to say.
We were also quite impressed with The Summit and Celebrity in general. The Summit is a wonderful ship. The size, décor, and layout truly suited our tastes. This was the first time we sailed with Celebrity and were extremely happy with how we were hosted and treated. Celebrity does just about everything well. Elegance with a fun atmosphere would be the best way to describe it. If you’ve never been to Bermuda, sailed out of the NYC area, or tried Celebrity, we would highly recommend all of them and in particular, this cruise. You won’t be disappointed.
My DW and I decided that we needed to take advantage of living near Port Everglades and cruise from our “Home Port.” We are limited to cruising mainly between May and October due to seasonal occupational restraints (I am a Golf Professional in FL). RCI is one of a few lines to cruise the Caribbean during that time frame. We were intrigued by what we'd heard about the Oasis Class ships and convinced some neighbors to join us. What started out as a foursome grew into a party of 12. Eight passengers drove to Port Everglades from Naples, FL and 4 others flew to FLL from Boston. Four married couples and two widowed women who shared a stateroom comprised our group. Six of the eight from FL met in January to discuss on-board entertainment and shore excursion preferences. It was agreed that each person should do as they wished and then we’d meet up for dinner. As it turned out, the group mainly stuck together for evening on-board entertainment and enjoyed their own adventures during the day.
Embarkation—After a jaunt across Alligator Alley (no, we didn’t see any alligators); we parked at Park-n-Fly through advanced, long term reservations. A short, private shuttle ride to the pier was easy and quick. We arrived at 10:45 at the terminal and hurried into the terminal to check in. There was virtually no wait because we were so early, were quickly checked in, and cleared to move into the waiting area. We were only there about 15 minutes before we were allowed to embark the Allure. We were off the shuttle bus and onto the ship in less than an hour. I’m guessing it isn’t always that easy, but it was for us.
The Ship--the reason we chose this ship was simply the curiosity factor, yet most of our group had not been to Eastern Caribbean. Allure did not disappoint. She is a massive, floating Las Vegas at sea, and is well worth exploring. Allure bombards ALL the senses. Sights, sounds, textures immediately hit you as you enter the Deck 5 Promenade area. It’s hard to believe you’ve boarded a ship! It’s like walking into your hometown mall with many high end shops and restaurants. There is so much to do and see on this ship that you truly can’t do it all in a week’s time. She is impeccably clean, well maintained, and the décor is nice and varied.
Activities-- Allure has something for everyone. If you want to relax there are many areas to relax including the adults only area Solarium pool and Bistro, the spa, Central Park, and other quiet spaces on the upper decks to hang out and relax (yes, hard to believe given the amount of passengers, but there are many places to crash and veg out). Hang out in some of the bars and night clubs during closed times for other quiet places. If you want to be active, the rock climbing wall, Flow Rider, zip line, pool games, basketball, mini golf, ice skating, Boardwalk, and casino are sure to please. If you’re s shopper, check out the Promenade’s vast collection of on-board merchants. Although there can be over 6,000 passengers on board, all those in our group agreed that we never felt truly crowded or claustrophobic. There is simply so much space to explore and experience. YOU WILL NEVER BE BORED on Allure (unless you want to be!) RCI does a nice job of integrating their activity program into all there is to do on the ship. The daily activity planner (The Compass) is literally 4-6 pages crammed with activities from Flash Mob dances to classical concerts in beautiful Central Park. Keep a copy with you at all times! You’ll need it.
Wi-Fi—Voom is simply the best on-board Wi-Fi any of us had ever used. It was so good in fact, that you can actually stream and FaceTime on board. Well worth the cost.
Service—Most of our group found the service on board to be quite good. There were a few issues that needed to be dealt with by Guest Services, but they were mainly due to RCI’s ever changing drink package prices and poor communication between marketing and their land based customer service centers. The hotel staff and stateroom attendants were friendly, efficient, and mostly attentive. Service in the main dining room was, for the most part, excellent. The MDR is a massive 3 story restaurant that serves roughly 2,500 people per seating. Our waiters were really good and were very anticipatory to our likes and dislikes.
State Rooms—All of our party had Superior Ocean View with Balcony state rooms on deck 12 mid ship D-5 category(one couple had a handicapped version of the same room). The rooms were well appointed with a flat screen TV, vanity, full size couch and ample storage space throughout the room. The balcony was larger than we expected and became one large balcony when the stateroom attendant opened up the partitions between the rooms for us. The bathroom was average size, but the shower seemed to be slightly bigger than most and had nice, circular, sliding doors instead of a flimsy shower curtain.
Dining—The food in the main dining room was very good. We’d give it a 4.2 out of 5. The menus were diverse and there was always something to please our pallets. It was never a problem to make substitutions or ask for extras. We visited the Windjammer Café on embarkation day and the food was pretty good. There are a lot of items to choose from and the food seemed fresh and tasty. The only problem is that the Windjammer design makes it one of the few places on the ship where you feel crowded. There are some funky seating patterns that cut into the buffet serving area, which creates traffic jams. As an alternative, the buffet in the Solarium area (deck 15 forward) was a good, healthy alternative to the Windjammer. You can get fruits and salads, plus healthy hot buffet entrees as well. The Café Promenade was good for paninis and late night desserts. All coffee on board, except for Starbucks (fee) is Seattle’s Best and it was the best coffee we’ve had at sea. The Park Café (Deck 8 aft) was the hidden jewel of the free dining experience. The roast beef sandwiches are to die for and the make your own salad option was really helpful. They also make great tasting paninis and quesadillas. Try the chorizo quesadilla. It was tremendous! The setting is hard to beat as well with beautiful trees and foliage all around. Room service food was good, but sometimes the delivery times were off by a half hour either side of when it was requested for. Johnny Rockets (fee) was great for some sinful delights, and since you’re already blowing thousands of calories there, you might as well walk across the Boardwalk to Ben & Jerry’s and polish- off a few scoops of ice cream (fee). The only food that was sub-par was Sorrento’s pizza. The sauce is ok, but the crust is like rubber (Northeast natives like us, like thinner, crispier crusts). The Donut Shoppe had free donuts. They were different, like a cross between a donut and yellow sponge cake. Not bad, just different. Four of us visited Izumi for sushi and hibachi and it was very, very good. We did not visit any other Specialty restaurants.
Children’s Clubs—none of us had any children with us so we cannot rate the clubs. Although this cruise caters mostly to families, it did not seem overrunning with screaming children which might speak to the quality of RCI’s children’s programs.
Ports/Excursions—First stop after 2 sea days was Phillipsburg, St. Maarten. DW had been there before, so we decided we’d just get off the ship and do some exploring in town. Others did the RCI excursion to Orient beach and said it was worth signing up for. A few did a taxi tour on their own and were a bit disappointed that the cab driver seemed disinterested in showing them around. After bouncing around downtown Phillipsburg, my DW and I grabbed a cab and headed out to Maho Beach by the airport to watch the planes land virtually on top of the beach. We had lunch at the Sunset Grille. It was a great setting right off the beach and could see the planes approach right from our table. The fish tacos were excellent. We grabbed another cab ($20 each way from town) and headed back for some jewelry shopping for some gifts to our friends.
Day 5 we stopped in San Juan. DW and I had been there before so we opted for RCI excursion to Toro Verde Adventure Park to tackle the Beast zip line (2nd highest, 3rd longest in world according to their pamphlets). After a slow, slow exit off the ship, we were late getting to the park after an hour plus bus ride. We don’t know if it was RCI not being ready, or not having port clearance to disembark which caused our late departure. Once we arrived, we were quickly briefed on how to ride the zip line. Off we went to conquer the Beast zip line (a mile long and 850 ft. in the air). Neither of us had done anything like this before. We were a little nervous about it once we realized that after we signed all the releases, we had pretty much signed our lives away (LOL), but we made it through it and 5 other shorter zip lines with flying colors. If you’re an adrenaline junkie (neither of us are, really) this is the excursion for you. IT WAS A BLAST! Because of a short stay in San Juan, we were only at the Adventure Park for about 1 & ½ hours and returned by bus to the ship for our 2:00 PM departure from San Juan. Others in the group did Old San Juan on their own, including the fort and enjoyed the Old Europe feel of the area.
Day 6 brought us to the RCI private resort on Labadee, Haiti. It was a beautiful island. The area is larger than any of the cruise line private islands we’ve been to and offer lots to do. Three couples opted to rent clam shell chairs on the beach and veg with drinks. Some opted to go to the giant water park, and DW and I chose to tackle Jet Skiing and ride the Dragon’s Breath zip line over the beach. We all agreed that we really liked what we chose. The Jet Skiing lasted about an hour. We did a driver and passenger. I think my wife was a little bummed that they don’t really let you switch drivers. If you want to drive, you need to rent your own, or else you’re relegated to passenger/GoPro photographer role (wife is into muscle cars and likes the speed). We did have a really nice ride/tour about the bay. Prior to that, DW and I reserved a spot on the Dragon’s Breath zip line. That was really cool too! We were “old pros” since having conquered The Beast in Puerto Rico. The view from the top of the mountain looking down over the beach was really fantastic. The outdoor buffet or, “giant barbecue” at the RCI pavilions was pretty good. The food was basic barbecue fare, but who really needs fancy when you’re on the beach, covered in sand, and sitting in a wet bathing suit? It was just right given the setting.
Entertainment—RCI really shines here. Ocean Aria is not to be missed! It’s an excellent mix of acrobatics and high diving. Try to see it at night when you get the full effects of the light show. The Comedy Club was perfect for an evening of adult entertainment. Blue Planet is different, but well worth seeing. It is indoor acrobatics mixed with theatrical production set to 80’s and 90’s music. Those who attended Mamma Mia thought the production was outstanding. Jazz on 4 is perfect for chilling and relaxing to some excellent jazz music. Bolero’s is excellent for Latin style dancing. If disco is your style, Dazzles on deck 8/9 is fun. The house band was excellent and played a wide range of music. The Schooner Bar had great sing along stuff and was fun as well. There were also really nice small, short performances in Central Park and on the Promenade as well. The Daily Compass is chock full of really good musical performances throughout the day ranging from lone guitarists in the Bow and Stern Bar, to classical quartets, to Big Band music. The Allure truly has something for everyone.
Disembarkation—Disembarkation was slower than you’d like, but not absurdly so. It’s hard to expect or fault RCI for the fact that 6,000+ people need to disembark, collect their luggage, and pass through customs in a rapid manner. Things were orderly and efficient, but again, slower than you’d want.
Summary—Me, my DW, and all of our group would agree that our time on Allure of the Seas was fantastic. Some, however, felt the ship was just too big. It wasn’t the amount of people so much as it was sheer size. It is easy to understand that train of thought. There is just sooooo much to do that you can’t possibly do it all in one week unless you stayed away for 20 hours a day! It sometimes felt that you were literally bouncing from one place/activity to another because you felt you might be missing something. The crew, service, and food were really good. The accommodations were nice, and the entertainment was excellent! If you’re sitting on the fence about whether or not to try Allure, go for it! You’ll be sure to find something to like, that’s for sure.
After 8 days traveling through Venice, Florence, and Rome on our own, we were glad to embark on Emerald Princess and let them guide us to an excellent 2nd half of our vacation. The transfer from Rome airport was very easy. We even got a bit of another guided tour as the transfer bus took us back through Rome for a tour of the city before heading off to Civitavecchia. We arrived around 12:00 PM and were on the ship and in our cabin by 12:20. It wasn't crowded, but I suspect it was because we embarked on 1 leg of a 4 leg itinerary. Either way, it was painless. Our Mini Suite (D405 mid ship) was clean, roomy, and well maintained. Our steward was friendly and more or less attentive and responsive to our requests. We tried to do some laundry after our land tour and found it to be difficult because other passengers on longer itineraries were also doing the same thing. The food in the Main Dining Rooms was delicious and the wait staff were more than attentive.Norman Love Chocolate desserts were phenomenal. We ate at both Sabatini's and the Crown Grille and were treated to excellent meals both nights and well worth the extra $$. The passenger services staff were pleasant and attentive, even when they couldn't solve our minor issues immediately. They did follow up with us to make sure things were eventually to our satisfaction. Our ports of call (Palermo, Naples, Livorno, Genoa, Toulon, and Barcelona each offered something spectacular to see and all our excursions did not disappoint. Most of our tours were through Aloschi Brothers, and all of their guides were friendly, knowledgeable, and seemed to have all our tour participants best interests in mind. Even the tour bus drivers were friendly and entertaining. The entertainment was top notch and contemporary. All the lounges were comfortable and relaxing. MUTS were great, especially The Sound of Music. The 70's Disco Dance Party was a hoot and learning "The Isaac" dance sent it over the top. Disembarkation was quick, efficient, and uneventful. Overall, it was a wonderful cruise experience. Everything with Princess seems so easy and relaxing. Great food, great ports and excursions, great staff, great entertainment and amenities added up to a wonderful week on board and off. We would highly recommend Princess, this particular itinerary, and the Emerald as well.