I was fortunate enough to be invited on a two-day cruise on the brand-new Allure of the Seas, and I jumped at the chance to check out this new mega-ship that has generated so much “buzz”. I’ll admit that I was skeptical about whether I would like such an enormous ship, but I was very pleasantly surprised!
If you want to skip ahead to the photos, here they are.
If you’re interested in my impressions of the cruise, here’s what I can tell you:
The ship is really well thought out, and the layout is very user-friendly. It normally takes me at least 4 or 5 days into a one-week cruise before I can reliably find my way around without having to stop and think about whether I’m headed forward or aft, or which side of the ship I need to be on, but I actually found my way around quite well on the Allure. Some of that was due to really good signage (they even have computer touch screens that can direct you back to your cabin), but I think the ship layout just makes sense. Entertainment and recreation areas are clustered together into “neighborhoods” (Central Park, the Boardwalk, etc.) which makes it much easier to remember where things are.
Our balcony cabin was very far aft on deck six, near the Boardwalk and one deck up from the main restaurant. It was perfectly fine for the two of us, but I think if we had the kids with us we’d need two separate cabins. And if you’re plus-sized (or claustrophobic) you might be uncomfortable in the plexiglass pod of a shower (junior suites and suites have more spacious bathrooms with tubs and showers). The balcony itself was a little smaller than what we’ve had on other ships, but the cabin had some nice touches, like an iPod docking station and a nice sized closet.
We toured a number of other cabin categories, and I really liked the fact that there are so many different layouts and locations to choose from. How about a cabin with a window seat and a picture window overlooking serene Central Park….or a balcony that looks inward to the bustling Boardwalk rather than out towards the sea? For a special occasion, or a multi-generational “escape”, my absolute favorite was the 8-person suite with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a spacious living area, and wraparound balconies overlooking the ship’s Aqua Theater and the open ocean beyond.
With only two days onboard, it was impossible to see and do everything, but we did our best! We saw two different ice shows (one of which – “How to Train Your Dragon” – was part of Royal Caribbean’s new tie in with Dreamworks entertainment), the “Move It, Move It” parade down the promenade, and a full Broadway-style production of Chicago, which was the best show I’ve ever seen at sea. Definitely a higher caliber of entertainers than the usual cruise ship revue. We also enjoyed a very entertaining “adult” singalong at the piano bar, cocktails in several venues around the ship, and a late-night disco party on the promenade. In between all this activity, we somehow found the time to lay by the “beach pool”, read a book in the beautiful solarium, watch the high-divers practice for the aqua show, and sit out on our balcony to watch the world go by.
There are LOTS of different dining options on this ship, and not all of them were open during our sailing, but we managed to sample quite a few. The Windjammer buffet was very well laid out, with no waiting in lines (even at peak times) and plenty of staff waiting to take your plate, find you a table, and bring you a hot coffee. The main dining room spans three decks, and even with that many people eating at once, the service was fantastic. We enjoyed two delicious dinners there, and I think the food was even better than previous RCCL cruises, and on a par with what we had on Princess this past summer. The really fun thing about Allure, though, is all the smaller restaurants sprinkled around the ship. We ate hot dogs on the Boardwalk, dessert at the Cupcake Cupboard on the promenade, and late-night pizza at Sorrentos. There’s also a Starbucks, a Johnny Rockets, a poolside grill, an ice cream parlor, Rita’s Cantina for Mexican food, Vintages for wine and tapas, and several other casual options, as well as the two specialty restaurants (150 Central Park and Chops Grill) that were not open during our sailing.
Because we didn’t have the kids with us, we did not take advantage of the many family-friendly activities on the sports deck, but we did see people enjoying the Flow Rider (surf simulator), minigolf course, basketball court, and the zip line. If you cruise on the Allure with active teens, you might not see them all week!
My overall thoughts (and some tips) are as follows:
- The Allure of the Seas is more like a giant floating resort than a typical cruise ship, and there’s so much to see and do onboard that you really should look at it as a destination in and of itself. The ports visited would be a less important consideration.
- Because of its size, there really is a lot of walking involved, even if you give in and take the elevators instead of the stairs. If you’re not prepared to get a lot of exercise, I would think twice about this ship – or at least make sure you have a cabin that’s mid-ship ( we spent a LOT of time walking down the long hallway to our aft cabin)
- Cabin selection is key on this ship. Spend some time thinking about what you’ll want to do on the ship, how much time you’ll spend in your cabin, and where you’d like to be located, and then let your travel agent help you choose the best category.
- The ship was not full when we sailed, but the seating for the various shows still filled up fast. I would definitely suggest that you make advance reservations for anything you know you want to see, so that you don’t end up disappointed.
- For things where you can’t make a reservation (like the parade), try to show up early to get a good vantage point. We found a great spot on deck 6 outside the photo shop and staked out our spot on the railing overlooking the promenade, and we had fantastic views of everything (but we were there about a half hour early to get that spot)
- The touch screens located throughout the ship are a really great way to find your way around, and they also allow you to quickly preview the wait times at the various restaurants (without having to walk all the way there and ask)
With all the excitement and hype about this new ship, demand (and prices) will remain high for at least the next year or two. If you have your heart set on sailing on the Allure, book early. Or give some thought to trying the Oasis of the Seas (her sister ship) instead — they’re nearly identical. Either way, give me a call!