Allure of the Seas–my final report

Closing out my Allure of the Seas report here are some overall feelings about the ship and the cruise. Let me say some things to set the stage. First, we are not BIG ship people but we wanted to try an Oasis class ship, the biggest in the world. Our usual ships carry about 3,000 cruisers max while Allure was hosting more than 6400.

Second, we had just sailed on a Quantum-class, almost-as-big ship (Ovation of the Seas) in July and had not had a great experience, so this was a second chance for Royal Caribbean. Lastly, this was (as we mentioned), a FAM cruise. That’s one where we got a great deal from Royal to take the cruise but had classes to take to become FAMiliar with Allure on all the sea days, letting us learn more about RCL and Allure. Let me say that the classes run by our fearless leader Nate were outstanding as you have probably figured out from my previous posts. Second, let’s look at the other two items on my list.

Was Allure too big?

Maybe. But it is easily manageable. I think we only felt crowded once on the entire cruise—lunch and after lunch (until the staterooms were opened) on Embarkation Day. But I will also say that after being on board for a week, I could now tell  friends that wanted to sail on this class of ship where to go to avoid that. For instance, after we had lunch at a fairly crowded Park Cafe (but nowhere near as crowded as the Windjammer Marketplace Buffet) we tried to find a quiet place to sit until the staterooms were ready. We didn’t. We finally squeezed ourselves into a tiny booth way in the back of the Boleros bar on the Royal Promenade. It was slammed. We later found that we could have gone to any of a bunch of other lounges for a quiet place to sit and wait. In fact just steps from the Park Cafe was Dazzles which we never saw anyone in during the day but we always found the doors open.

Comparing this to our Ovation of the Seas cruise, we really feel that Allure has handling the crowds down cold. They know what they are doing. On Ovation, it was like they were trying to figure out how to handle the huge number of people onboard and never quite getting it right. Royal has been using this class of ship much longer and really gets it on this size ship.

Also on Ovation in July, it was sometimes hard to find anything to do with our kids for numerous reasons. I spent a lot of time playing foosball with my grandkids. That would NEVER have been the case on Allure. In fact, maybe there is too much to do. And after their future upgrade (Amplification) there will be even more to do. So many of those venues (pictured below) were not that crowded when we walked by them during the week because the ship is SO big that there are plenty of places to spread out the crowd.

While Ovation had little interesting entertainment (a comic juggler and typical cruise ship shows, etc) Allure had some of the best shows we have ever seen at sea in 28 cruises. Between Mama Mia (of Broadway touring company quality), the aqua show, the comedy club, the jazz club, the disco, the ice show, the very professional main showroom shows, we were VERY well entertained.

I truly wish we had been able to take our grandkids on Allure instead of Ovation. They would have had so much more fun because there were so many fun things to do and they were open and available. Sadly, no Oasis class ships have done Alaska so that would have meant flying them across the country and going to the (for me) dreaded Caribbean.

Which brings me to the one thing we really didn’t like about the trip—that Royal Caribbean can’t do a thing about—the heat and humidity. A lot of the things to do on Allure are outdoors and for us Northwesterners, it was just too hot and too humid. We are not Caribbean people. We don’t like beaches, we don’t like sun (I’ve had one malignant melanoma and that’s enough for this life) and we really are not fans of walking around islands where those are the main attractions. We can only imagine how great it would have been to spend this same week onboard Allure had we been able to do this next summer (after she is Amplified) and while she is sailing in the Mediterranean. WOW! An incredible port every day and Allure to come back to at night. When you finished you would need a vacation to recover from your vacation.

One thing we learned in our week on Allure is that this ship is so big and there is so much to do that it doesn’t matter where you are or what you enjoy, you will find something you like to do. To prove it to you, check out my photos for this windup post which will take you on a virtual tour of the public areas of Allure. As you see all there is to do, keep in mind that once Allure goes through Amplification, there will be even more to do.

Deck 18 & 17—the Suite life

There are 18 decks on Allure (well, really only 17 because like most ships, there is no deck 13). 18 is just staterooms (suites) and 17 has a sundeck for suites as well as more suites and the Coastal Kitchen (a restaurant open to suite guests). We didn’t get to see this because we weren’t staying in a suite.

Deck 16—Windjammer Marketplace, Solarium, Flowrider, Zipline

So if you are hungry or want a thrill, this is the place. As I mentioned above, we did not do a lot on any deck above eight except walk around and have lunch on the day we were in Nassau. Starting from the aft, on this deck you will find twin Flowriders (the surfing simulator our grandson Mason learned to love on Ovation), a short but really high zip line, a few bars and the main attraction, the Windjammer Marketplace which is actually the buffet. Not sure why Royal has named all their buffets a Marketplace because you really can’t buy anything there (that’s me, trying to be funny). Here are some pics that will give you an idea of what to expect. They all have captions so you can get an idea of what you are looking at.

Deck 15—Sun and water

If you are a sun worshipper you won’t be disappointed. This deck has SplashAway Bay for the kids, FOUR full size family pools and some great views down into Central Park and The Boardwalk. On the aft end of this deck you will find Allure Dunes (miniature golf) a sports court, lots of places to drink and get snacks as well as the Living Room, a part of the teen scene. At the front of the ship you will also find the downstairs part of the adults-only Solarium.

Deck 14—Adventure Ocean

Most of deck 14 is all about staterooms but the one main thing you find on this deck is Adventure Ocean, Allure’s club for kids from 3 to 17. I only have two photos for you because Allure does not allow photos when kids are in attendance and I don’t blame them. This deck also has a card room but that’s one of the few places I didn’t get around to seeing. Something tells me it wouldn’t have been really that interesting.

If you are a photographer, the best place to take photos as you come into ports is the Sundeck on the very far forward of deck 14. The glass partition are a little high for me so if you are a diminutive photographer, you may have a hard time shooting over it but most of my forward facing port photos came from being on the Sundeck.

Deck 9-12—Diamonds, Dazzles and staterooms

Remember, no deck 13. So Deck 12 has the upstairs of the Diamond Club, Allure’s private area for their three highest loyalty club members. To get to the Diamond Level in the Crown and Anchor Society you need 175 cruise credits. Since we have 17 now, we are guessing that one credit equals one night on board in a typical stateroom. There’s also some additional credits if you book a suite. We used the Diamond Club on a lot on this cruise. Of course you are wondering with just 17 credits, how were we able to do that??? We are Elite Plus members of Celebrity Cruises’ Captains Club and since both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity (as well as Azamara Cruises) are owned by the same company, we get reciprocal benefits to a point. On Celebrity, there is nothing like the Diamond Club but we wish there were.

They serve a great breakfast there and we ate ours in the Diamond Club every morning. Typical buffet fare but with hardly any crowds. Some mornings we were one of a very few people in the room. In the evening, they serve cocktails and appetizers from 4:30 until 8:00. We went every night and some nights it was rather crowded but we soon learned if we waited to go until after the first dinner seating left for dinner, there were plenty of places to sit. We met a lot of very nice people during these super evening receptions. This room really made our cruise. There are pics below.

Somewhere on one of these decks there is a really tiny internet “room” with about five computers in it that are available for anyone’s use. I discovered it by mistake and it is so small that it doesn’t even show on deck plans so I can’t remember where exactly it is. It’s about the size of two inside staterooms put together and sits in the middle of a bunch of inside staterooms near the front elevators and staircases.

Also on Deck 11, right next to the Diamond Club entrance (the Diamond Club also has an upstairs dining area that is used for Chef’s Table, a kind of a pop-up specialty restaurant) is the ship’s library. It is tiny and windowless and often empty but it is a great place to go and find some peaceful time away from the crowds of Allure.

The rest of decks nine through twelve are staterooms. Lots and lots of staterooms.

Deck 8—Central Park and more

I know I have already posted pictures looking down into Central Park as our verandah looked into this central part of the ship that is open air. Central Park is a drop-dead gorgeously green area on a cruise ship. Incredible plants, a couple of bars, a bunch of specialty restaurants (both complimentary and chargeable) and just a relaxing place to sit if you can handle the heat and humidity. In a cooler climate, I would love this place. Captions on the photos explain what you are looking at. Also on this deck is Dazzles, a nightclub that we walked into but never went at night so we aren’t sure what kind of music they feature. We really liked the way it looked inside. Small and intimate on two levels with a great view of The Boardwalk area.

Deck 7—Not much

I have no pics on Deck seven. It is mostly staterooms and the upstairs of Dazzles. That’s about it. Sorry.

Deck 6—A whole bunch of stuff from front to back

Deck six is PACKED from bow to aft. From the front of the ship where you will find the spa and gym, to midships where you will discover the upper deck/balcony/mezzanine of the Royal Promenade to finally the aft that is The Boardwalk. You could spend an entire day on deck six and have a great time and never need to go anywhere else. It has more attractions and things to do than most entire cruise ships. Check out the photos for all the info. The Boardwalk is especially amazing with restaurants, the aqua show I wrote about last week and a full-size carousel. Amazing.

Deck 5—The Royal Promenade

The heart of the ship, the Royal Promenade, is where things happen. It seems like all the other entertainment venues and places to eat are outliers and the Royal Promenade is the center of everything. Cruise Director Jimmy Rhodes told us on New Year’s Eve, it hosts one of the biggest parties on the seas and we believe it. Check out the pics for more into. Deck 5 also has the upstairs entrances to the theater (forward) and the main dining room (aft). There’s even a real-live Starbucks (that will take your Starbucks card instead of your Seapass card)!

Deck 4—Food and Entertainment

If you can’t tell, my deck descriptions are relying less and less on narrative and more and more on the photo captions. This ship is just too big. Deck four has the main entrances to the theater (forward) and the dining room (aft). It also has the casino (my biggest criticism is the entrance to the casino which is full of cigarette smoke being across from the entrance to the dining room which means I couldn’t avoid it) and the art auction office (biggest rip off on the high seas IMO) . Deck four also has a jazz club (we liked), a comedy club (we never went to), an ice-skating rink (ditto) and another night club we used for a group reception on our first night at sea. It is used for a lot of private receptions and is generally an all-purpose club. There is also a small Japanese Benihana-style restaurant but I can’t remember if it was on deck four or five and it doesn’t show up on the Allure Deck plans. The photo captions have more into.

Deck 3—Conference Center

Deck three has the Conference center (where we did our classes with Nate) and that’s about it. It also has one of the other main dining venues (for MyTime diners) as well as the bottom level of the theater. No pics here that weren’t on the other decks but I did include a few below that don’t have any other specific place to go.

That’s it! One solid week of learning about this ship, having a great time and a great experience even with the heat and humidity. Hope you enjoyed traveling along. And one final note: if you have a family, this class of ships is for you. There is truly something for everyone.

If I had my will I would live in a ship on the sea, and never come nearer to humanity than that!—Eleonora Duse


Day 7 on Allure of the Seas—Nassau, in the Bahamas

Panoramic photo from the back of Allure of the harbor in Nassau. The Disney ship you see on the right and the Royal Caribbean ship beyond her are two of five in port that day.

First, let me apologize for taking so long to get this last day of our Allure trip online. As we did a year ago on our New England trip, we came home sick. It appears we got the flu. Kathleen had been fighting it for a few days but I came down with a full blown case on the last night. Basically coughed the entire night, fever, aches and pains…you know the drill. We were supposed to do a Miami food tour once we got off the ship but we had to bag that and beg our buddy Mike to let us come back to his place and just collapse for the day before we flew home at 6:30 Sunday night. He’s such a great guy—he quickly said, “Come on up!” So we did. Thanks Mike!

At any rate, once we got back to Redmond, I have just been wiped out and not in the mood to put this  post together. But eventually I have to kick myself in the butt and do something, so here goes.

When I last posted, we were in Nassau, Bahamas and had decided to stay on the ship. Why? Because it was 1) hotter than hell, 2) we had been there twice before, 3) since we are not beach/snorkeling/gambling people, there is not much to do and 4) there were five (YES, FIVE) ships in that day for a total of more than 14,000 people who were going to have to get off the ship and go through one little building to get on and off the island. So we stayed onboard and I took the day to take a bunch of photos of the ship with hardly anyone in them (which I will include with my last Allure post in a couple of days) and a few of Nassau from the ship (below).

One more post about this trip and and that will wind it up. In the next couple of days I will sum up the trip, give you some recommendations and tell you our general impressions of Allure of the Seas and show you pics from the rest of the ship. I only showed the inside of staterooms on our first day. These will be the public areas. Watch for it! Now, here are some pics.

Nassau, Bahamas photos (taken from the deck of Allure)

Since the beginning, it was just the same. The only difference, the crowds are bigger now.—Elvis Presley

Day 5 & 6 on Allure of the Seas–San Juan, Puerto Rico

A panoramic shot of Old Town San Juan from the sundeck on Allure of the Seas

Day 5 found us docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico where the temps were in the low 90s and the humidity near 80% so according to two apps on my phone it “felt like” 110. That’s just too hot. But being the intrepid walker I decided to take a 4 mile walk around old town, and then from one fort to another, duplicating a walk we had taken the first time we were here back in 2005. I just don’t remember it being this hot. I took some pics on my walk (as I usually do) and they are below.

When I got back to our stateroom, Kathleen was shocked at how I looked. I was literally soaking wet with sweat, my face was red and Kathleen said, “Oh my God! I have never seen you that sweaty and your face that red!” She was honestly worried about me—something she does a lot…because she loves me.

After a cold shower and lots of water, a short nap (more about napping later) I was back to normal and we were off to our free specialty restaurant dinner at 150 Central Park. For you Celebrity cruisers out there, it’s a slightly less formal version of Murano. We had a wonderful server, Lina who was totally conversant and we love talking to staff about food. She was so good to us. Kathleen had lamb Wellington and I had venison. To give you an example of how great Lina was, when she came back for the customary check-in of “How do you like your entrées,” we got into a discussion of our favorite foods. I told her I loved octopus. About five minutes later, she walked back up and set a plate of grilled octopus down on the table. I was stunned. It wasn’t on their menu. I asked her how she had done that magic and she said that another specialty restaurant (Giovanni’s, where I had lunch with our group on Tuesday) did serve it and she went and got me some. WOW! That’s service. Way to go above and beyond.

That was about it for Thursday except that we saw an outstanding show in the evening, The Company Men. They are an outstanding singing quartet that does mash-ups. When I first heard that my reaction was “Let’s skip this one.” But our buddy Mike had told us not to miss a show so off we went. I was so sure we wouldn’t like it that I even had us sit way in the back so we could get out quick if it went as bad as I thought it might be.

Boy was I wrong. Sure enough, Allure did not disappoint. Another outstanding show. These guys are amazing vocalists (check their website linked above and listen for a few minutes) and what they do to put two, three and four songs together from different eras is truly amazing. We loved the show The Company Men. They play a lot of cruise ships (their website has their schedules as there are three traveling groups) so if you ever get the chance to see them, don’t miss it.

Friday was another sea day so we had our last class with Nate. He had arranged a tour of the ship’s bridge to start the day so we all met with security and were escorted in. Kathleen and I are kind of jaded when it comes to being on a cruise ship bridge. It’s something we have done at least three times before and to be honest, all cruise ship bridges pretty much look alike. The only difference with Allure’s was the size. On the others we have toured (Celebrity’s Infinity, Century and Azamara’s Quest) you could walk from one side of the bridge to the other in about 20 big steps. On Allure it would have been about 50 big steps, she is that wide. Otherwise, a ship’s bridge is just a bunch of computer monitors and a couple of chairs with joysticks. See the pics (I only took a few because there’s not much to it) and you will understand. The officer giving the tour was a really nice guy so we did have a good time.

After that it was back to class and today was just short, open book (or in our case, open Google) test about all we had learned this week. I am too old to memorize everything when I know right where to find it online. We also did some celebrating as Nate had gotten a cake for all the October birthdays (including Kathleen’s on the 27th). And one of our group (Jenna from our corporate offices) had gotten engaged the day before as well. The group of agents we are traveling and taking classes with are really great folks from all over the US and Canada. Since we have seen them in class, at shows and at dinner we have really gotten to know some of them very well. It’s great to compare how we all do our travel jobs.

After class we used our free specialty restaurant lunch and went to Allure’s Mexican joint, Sabor. It was pretty good Mexican food and the fact that it was free (normal charge $20 per person) made it all the better. We even got our margaritas comped. Didn’t know that until we were done eating. If I had know that, I would have had another. 😀

After lunch I actually went back to our stateroom and took a nap. This is a big deal for me as I hardly ever do this. This week I have found myself really tired late in the morning and through the afternoon. Last night I figured out why, (BTW: As I am writing this it is Saturday, our last full day and we just arrived in Nassau, Bahamas). Last night as I lay in bed my legs starting hurting like they were on fire, followed by my back doing the same thing. I have had this three times before in my life and it is always the same thing—caffeine withdrawal. Now I have been drinking cappuccinos every morning but either they were too much milk or they were using decaf but suffice it to say, I spend a horrid night until 7:00 am when the onboard Starbucks opened (THANK GOD FOR STARBUCKS) where I ordered a cup of black coffee with two shots of espresso. I sat down right there to drink it and within 10 minutes of my first sip, I was feeling better. By the time I finished the grande, no pain whatsoever. I am now flying 😜 but I feel great.

But back to last night. We saw our last production show, Blue Planet. Your typical Cirque de Soleil-type show that cruise ships are really into right now. Music, acrobatics and dancing. We have seen these on Celebrity ships before but because Allure is so BIG and has such a huge theater with a huge stage, they can do much more staging-wise. That made it a really interesting show. If I hadn’t seen it, I would go and I recommend you do if you are onboard.

We were there for the early show at 7:00 and were out by 7:45 and off to dinner with fellow agents and then back to our stateroom for the aforementioned horrible, caffeine-withdrawal night punctuated by a cough that both of us have seemed to pick up. When will be able to travel without getting sick?

But enough about illness, here’s some pics from my walk around San Juan and our last day in class.

San Juan, Puerto Rico photos

Photos from our bridge tour and last day of classes

There’s definitely healing properties to being in proximity to the ocean and that breeze. There’s something about that Caribbean climate and humidity.—Johnny Depp

Day 3 & 4 on Allure of the Seas–St. Kitts

A panoramic view of St. Kitts harbor from the sundeck on Allure of the Seas

More about Allure…which almost rhymes. Day three was another sea day and we had class from 9:00 to 12:00 and then we had lunch as a group in Giovanni’s Italian restaurant, one of Allure’s specialty places. (BTW: The pic above is St. Kitts from the ship. Looks pretty right? Not if you hate heat and humidity. More below.)

The class was fine but again, the conference room was so cold it gave Kathleen a migraine headache that was so bad she missed lunch and was in bed all afternoon. Entirely due to the frigid temps and the constantly blowing AC. Our instructor Nate asked to have it warmed up a bit and maintenance told them they had complied with his request but you would never know it. From now on I am bringing a small thermometer to conferences. She missed a great lunch and the best session of the classes we took. 

We had two guest speakers that afternoon. First we got to meet a Royal Genie. If you are not familiar with the Royal Genie program, it is pretty much one-of-a-kind. It works like this: If you book certain VERY expensive suites onboard many of Royal’s ships (the big ones predominately) you get the services of a Royal Genie. Think of him or her as a super butler. In fact to become a Royal Genie you have to go to London to a butler school that is run by a former butler to the British Royal Family. 

A Royal Genie’s job consists of contacting you about a month before your cruise to find out your likes and dislikes, whether you have any special requests and to generally make you feel ultra-special. They carry on a pretty detailed dialog with you via e-mail for the month prior to the cruise. In that time they might book shows for you or make reservations at specialty restaurants (in those suites, all specialty restaurants are included). Then when you arrive at the ship they meet you at your car and escort you through check-in and directly to your suite which is ALWAYS ready for you. After that, every wish you have (within reason but they can be pretty crazy) is taken care of. When it is time for you to go to dinner at your specialty restaurant, they come and escort you there. Same with shows. And if you don’t want to go out but want a meal from a specialty restaurant, then they can have it brought to your suite and they serve it for you. If you want a party for other guests on board, they take care of that as well. All at no additional charge. Of course a seven day cruise in a Royal Genie serviced suite will run you anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000, but hey, it’s worth it. 

The Royal Genie that came in to speak to us was very interesting and described his job as well as telling us a bunch of stories (with no names of course) about crazy requests he had dealt with in his six years as a Genie. Hilarious and crazy stories you will have to ask me about later. Too many to tell here. 

After our Royal Genie session we got to spend about 45 minutes with our Cruise Director Jimmy Rhodes, one of the funniest CDs I have ever had the chance to listen to. He has been an RCL cruise director for 17 years and was the first black cruise director on a major cruise line. He started with RCL as a dancer in their shows and moved his way on up. If you look up the word “Hoot” in the dictionary, you will see his picture.

He also told us some great stories and answered a bunch of questions about the ship. One of them was whether the water show would be performed that night. Allure (and all the other Ovation class ships) have a huge water show that takes place outdoors on the aft end of the ship. The day before it had been postponed due to rough seas and high winds. We were interested because many of us had reservations for that night’s show. He was quick to reply that they would probably postpone the shows for that night as well and they did end up doing that. We did get to see the show the next day at 5:30 pm and I can’t say enough good things about it. Our buddy Mike told us the shows were great on this class of ship and he has been right on so far (tonight we are going to another one and I will let you know if we go three for three). For this show, I got to take lots of pics and the light was pretty good, so you will be able to see what we saw. Suffice it to say, it was AMAZING. See the pics below. 

The next morning we arrived on the island of St. Kitts. Kathleen and I had never been to this island before so we had booked a Royal Caribbean shore excursion to take a train ride around the island on a narrow gauge train that was set up for taking travelers to see the island. We were aware that we would have to take a bus from the ship to where we would join the train and one back as well. What we didn’t realize that we would be on a poorly air-conditioned bus for more than an hour to get to the train over some of the worst roads you have seen. On the train we were served water, rum punch, rum and cola, rum on the rocks, Pina coladas, rum and rum or just about anything with rum in it. Like a plastic cup. Just a note that we would NOT recommend this shore excursion to anyone. Hot and boring unless you like looking at grass, trees, ocean and the rest of your fellow travelers who are on board. The tour was also fully narrated but because of the age of the train and tracks, you couldn’t hear the narration. It was an extremely loud train trip.

A quick note here about the most overriding thing about this trip—the HEAT! And the humidity. Going outside of any air conditioned part of the ship is awful. And I fully take credit for that since we are total heat and humidity wimps. But that’s why we live in the Northwest. We hate heat and we hate humidity. More about this when I write about San Juan on Saturday.

Back on the ship we had a late lunch and I went to work out. Normally I work out in the morning but this cruise has really thrown off our schedules. We have late seating which means we eat dinner at 8:00 pm, then hang out until at least 11:00 to let our food digest and then go to sleep. That means that I am sleeping until 6:30 or 7:00 which doesn’t leave me enough time to work out, eat breakfast and make it to class or a shore excursion so I have been working out or walking later in the day. On Day 3 I walked five miles around the ship’s jogging/walking track in the later afternoon (and about died due to the heat and humidity) and on Day 4 (yesterday) I went to the gym around 3:30. Thankfully the AC was working better than it had been on Monday morning. I am somewhat worried what is going to happen to our schedules when we get home on Monday.

After the workout we were off to see the aforementioned water show that had been postponed. And as I said, it was excellent. After the show, dinner, then hang out and bed. Tomorrow (really today) is San Juan, Puerto Rico. More on Friday from the Nassau, Bahamas.

St. Kitts photos

 Ocean Aria Aqua show photos