June 2014 - Allure of the Seas to Caribbean - Western
This was our first cruise with our children - 12, 10 and 6 months. We have been on several cruises with Royal Caribbean as a couple but had read how family-friendly Royal Caribbean and the Allure of the Seas was so decided to check it out.
1 - Programming for children, not babies. Our older children had an amazing time and we felt comfortable allowing them to participate in activities late at night. There were several times we went to pick up our 10-year-old and he along with other children were begging to stay longer. Please note - the programming and activities are included but there is a fee for kids who stay late. Our 12-year-old had a great time too - she was allowed to come and go so we didn't have to pick up or drop off for the "teen" events. Their activities seemed appropriate but the programs went until 2am and we didn't feel comfortable with her staying out that late - maybe if she was a little older.
2 - Activities onboard for older children and adults - so many things to do - flow rider, ice skating, rock climbing, swimming, ping pong, mini golf, zip line, arcade (additional fee for those games), carousel, bean bag toss game, basketball, dodge ball - we did it all, except for the baby of course.
1 - Dining room food - great selection and our kids tried things I don't make at home but the quality wasn't always very high. We had a couple of steaks that had to be sent back more than once.
2 - Shows and entertainment - great selection but the start times were tough for our family since we ate at the early time and shows seemed to start during our dinner time, too close to the end of dining so we couldn't make the start or too late for our entire family to enjoy. They have multiple showings a night but unless you reserve tickets in advance, it is tough to get in, which is frustrating when you just rushed your entire family through a nice meal to watch a show that is already full. Also, "Chicago" was being performed and it was rated "R" - not very family friendly and was very disappointed that a headline show on a family-friendly ship was rated "R".
1 - Cruises are NOT for babies unless you are OK with paying the same price for your other children PLUS the charge of the nursery without the benefit of family entertainment programming or the included children's programming that I loved (see above). And if you forget diapers or baby food, that is an extra charge too. Also, there is only a VERY small pool where babies are allowed to be in, unless there is an "accident" in that pool, then they seem to be OK with letting you utilize some of the other small children's pools. The nursery seemed clean and the staff was friendly but unfortunately, our baby boy had some drainage issues and the onboard doc recommended we not take him there. The toys you are able to check out and keep in your room are fairly limited but it was still nice to have some "new" toys for him to play with.
2 - Very limited information on the ports was provided in the rooms. When we cruised the mediterranean on Royal Caribbean, we were provided a lot more information on the port - what to do, helpful tips, etc. The information we saw for this cruise was just for shopping.
3 - There was a quinceanera being celebrated during our cruise. On the day that I was finally able to take my baby and older children to the pool, this huge group of young girls, along with some adults (parents or event planners) took over the children's pool area for a photo shoot. They asked little kids to leave the pool so they could take some very inappropriate photos. These girls were asked to pose in provocative ways while they took professional pictures. Parents of the little kids went to find staff but I didn't see anyone come over. Remember, there is already limited space for kids to swim (more space than the babies get, but still limited when you consider how many kids can be on a ship of over 6,000 passengers) so when a group of teenagers wants to invade that space for an inappropriate photo shoot, you can imagine there were some unhappy parents.