March 2015 - Allure of the Seas to Caribbean - Western
Overall we had a great cruise. We chose this particular cruise because it was the ship we wanted and the ports that we wanted. The ship lived up to all of the hype; there was so much to do that even with a detailed plan going in we were not able to do everything. We saw all of the major shows - prior reservations were highly recommended and we made them before sailing date - which were top notch and they would have cost between $35.00 & $75.00 if seen in commercial venues. We also saw several other shows or events that did not need prior reservations and they too were terrific.
The food on the ship was good and even excellent in some eateries - we ate at two specialty restaurants Giovonni's Table and Samba Grill - Samba grill was excellent and both were reasonably priced for on-board specialty dining. We have cruised with three other cruise lines and thought that each of their food offerings were better - two of the lines were much better. Also we missed the creative touches that we found on other cruise lines such as extensive fruit carvings and ice sculptures that we enjoyed on Disney and Princess. We thought that Royal's charging for a small box of popcorn and Johnny Rocket's was very off-putting. There was certainly enough complimentary dining of average to good quality to make the cruise enjoyable. Other cruise lines had burger and pizza bars in the pool areas so that you didn't have to leave your spot and go to get something to each. I am an avowed "beer snob" drinking only micro-brews and craft beers and the selection was dismal on this ship. They did have Sam Adams and one pub had Red Hook but that was about it, along with Jamaican Red Stripe.
We are not big on carrying around suits and gowns for formal nights when on vacation, so the two formal nights were not enjoyable for us as we had to make alternative dining plans. We did find out that a nice button down shirt and dress slacks were enough to get by with so that was helpful. Also though the formal nights were supposed to be on the second and sixth nights they got changed to the second and fifth nights which caused us to do some re-arranging of our plans.
There were plenty of pools and hot-tubs, but the pools were entered and exited via pool ladders which exclude people with disabilities such as knee replacements of back injuries. The hot tubs were all walk in with stairs and were very large. There was one pool at the bow which had walk down stairs and as an added bonus it was for adults only. There were a lot of families on this cruise but for the most part the kids were well behaved and respectful.
The ports we visited were just o.k. as we were expecting more. Their island of Labadee was the best as there were nice beeches for swimming, adequate lounge chairs and sun cabanas available at no charge, excepting the tip for someone to set them up. Jamaica was expensive and a rather small local area to explore, unless you went on an excursion which were very expensive to book on the ship and were not always as advertised. Case in point, $100.00 to Zip Line - great for distance and ride - was supposed to take two hours but only consumed thirty minutes. We heard other similar stories.
At Cozumel we did not even get off the ship because Lucy, the professional on-board shopper, said that the immediate area at the port was a "heads down, no-thank-you zone" and you would need to pay a taxi $8.00 each way to get to the main shopping town. We do not cruise to shop so there was no sense in getting off the ship. We found out after that her description of the immediate port was inaccurate and only served to get people down to the area where she had pre-arranged "quality" shops. The same ones that are found in virtually every cruise port including Alaska.
The attitude and helpfulness of the crew was for the most part, commendable; although we did run into a fair number who were, shall we say, "having a bad day". There were 6,000 plus guests cruising with us in addition to the crew but the ship is so big that you did not realize it. The ride was incredibly smooth and we thought that we were in a local mall.
The three open areas, The Promenade, Boardwalk, and Central Park were truly amazing, each had entertainment, shops and eateries. The Boardwalk had a carousel, a hot dog stand, an ice cream shop - not complimentary - several other pay for dining restaurants and a huge aqua theater. Central park was lush and green with live orchids. There were two Tidal bars that went up and down three floors.
Boarding went very well and the disembarking went smoothly although it was lengthy
The worst part of the trip was Fort Lauderdale. It has changed so much in the last 25 years. It used to be a nice place to visit and we looked forward to going to conventions in that are. Now it is overcrowded with terrible and dangerous drivers - that from a Boston driver. We will look for cruises leaving from Tampa or New York in the future.
Overall a great cruise. If we had not been on Disney, Princess and Norwegian we would have rated the food higher, but again it was plentiful and good. Each of our cruises have had remarkable memories and the Allure of the Seas will be remembered for its incredible size, stability, entertainment, sheer volume of things to do.