July 2014 - Allure of the Seas to Caribbean - Eastern
As far as cruises go you can't go wrong with this one. The Allure is Amazing...Huge, pretty new, Clean, and well appointed. The staff was friendly and there is a lot to do on the ship.
If you aren't familar with cruises you should keep some things in mind: They say that a cruise is "all inclusive", but this couldn't be further from the truth (this is for all cruise lines, not just RC). From the second you book the trip they are working to get more and more money out of you. Everyday i got emails from RC to sell upgrades. Some of the extras they try to get from you - upgrading your room, doing their excursions (which are expensive), upgrading your dining, pay for Overpriced pictures taken by aggressive photographers on the ship, buying alcohol package (expensive), buying juice package, buying bottled water package, buying the soda package (soda is not included on a cruise), tips (why they just can't inlcude this in the price i don't know), Wifi (outrageous price), parking for your car (outrageous) or airport transfers, and the list goes on and on. Its a game cruise lines play to get as much money from you as possible. You can go and not spend a lot, but i think most people end up spending some. They give you a card much like a credit card for use on the ship and some people get a shock at the end of the cruise when they get their final bill.
There is a good variety of food and lots of it, but to me it just tasted OK. You can tell they are feeding people on a budget. I had a strip steak in the main free dining room and it was as thick as a piece of paper. On this ship as most new cruise ships, there are about two or three times as many pay resturants as their are free ones. The quality of the pay food would be similar going to a nice resturant at home. On the Allure they had a pay ice cream shop....I didn't appreciate that, but you can get free ice cream at dinner - its just not as good. They also have a pay cup cake place, pay starbucks, pay coffee places, ect. They have a pay Johnny Rockets which is good and not expensive, but when you are already supposed to be getting free food its a little frustrating. With the exception of the spa, bingo, gambling, and tours i think all the entertainment was included.
I'm not sure why, but cruise ships always go to the worst possible ports. You do have to be careful in most places when you get off the ship. St. Marteen felt pretty safe so we rented a jeep and explored the island for the day (much cheaper than doing their excursions) - it was fun!
Its important that you make reservations for all of the shows you want to see or even think you might want to see weeks before you get on the ship. Do Not wait. Otherwise, you are forced to wait at the end of the line and either won't get in or sit in back of theaters.
If you are able to spend the money, I would highly recommend a balcony room. Spending a week in a small room with no view of the outside makes you feel clastrophobic after a few days. We had a ocean view balcony and it was nice to have some privacy and just sit and watch a sunrise or sunset eating free room service.
Even though there are about 8500 people on board including staff most of the time it didn't feel crowded except at the pools. This ship feels less crowded than other ships I have been on. If your looking at different cruises I would just say try to get a newer ship as they are used 24/7 365 days a year - ships age quickly. When i was looking there was a tempation to save a few dollars and go on a cheaper cruise line, but you get what you pay for. RC is one of the best cruise lines and if you do your research you will find that different cruise lines have different niches. If you are set on a cruise this is one is a great one, if your undecided another type vacation maybe better.