“Just Back from Allure of the Seas.” Or, “Tell Your Fortune for a Buck.”
Before the suitcases are put away and my dirty underwear is in the washer, it’s time for a review of my week aboard the largest passenger ship in the world, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. Unfortunately, due to Tropical Storm Isaac, this 7 day Western Caribbean cruise was shortened to a 5 day cruise with stops in Cozumel, Mexico and Nassau, Bahamas.
Being one who prefers the smaller ships such as the Regent Seven Seas Voyager or Navigator, I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle the massive Allure and her nearly 6,000 passengers.
My first cruise was on Royal Caribbean’s Sovereign of the Seas back in 1993 and I haven’t been on the line since, so I was also interested to see what the Royal service would be like on their flagship vessel.
We drove into Port Everglades, pulled up to the ship, dropped off our luggage and parked the car in a lot directly across the street from the Allure of the Seas. A porter took our bags and since we had a suite, we had a separate check-in entrance which gave us priority. From the curb to the ship took no more than 15 minutes. An amazingly quick, extremely well organized process that could have been a complete mess if the people running the operation weren’t on the top of their game. I have to say, this was the most organized embarkation process I have even been through.
Once up the winding gangway, we entered the ship on Deck 5 – the Royal Promenade. I hesitated for a moment as there was no one there welcoming us aboard by handing us a glass of champagne. Instead, servers were already pushing the for-fee-drink-of-the-day. Welcome aboard.
Having read many reviews that said, “Once onboard you MUST go to the Park Cafe and get one of the roast beef sandwiches. They’re the absolute BEST,” we did just that. The Park Cafe is located I the ship’s Central Park “neighborhood” which is home to specialty restaurants and the only living, breathing park at sea. The sandwich was nothing remarkable. It was just a thick piece of roast beef slapped on a hard roll that was moistioned by some au jus. One cruise review site called this “the best sandwich at sea.”
After lunch we headed up to Deck 17 where our Crown Loft Suite awaited. The two-story loft style cabin is located at the top of the ship where the Viking Crown Lounge is situated. Only people with a Crown Loft Suite have access to the floor and the hallways are huge and tastefully decorated unlike the narrow passageways.
The lower level of the Crown Loft Suite had a full bath, living area with 60” LED television, eating area, a rock garden, a sofa bed and plenty of closet space. Two-story, floor to ceiling windows overlooked the huge balcony that we spent plenty of time relaxing on. Upstairs featured the master bedroom with queen size bed, LED television that came down from the ceiling, hardwood floors, a bathroom with a two-person shower and closet space.
Royal Caribbean is one of several lines that now offer speciality restaurants for those, like me, who wish to avoid the main dining room experience. We booked a different restaurant each night:
- Chops Grill – the line’s signature steakhouse. Nothing spectacular, nothing memorable except my potatoes were served cold as if they were taken directly from the refridgerator and thrown on a plate. I had a filet and my companion had a NY Strip. He enjoyed his, but I have had much better filets and prefer my steaks to be broiled with a nice char around the edges rather than grilled on a flat top.
- Giovanni’s Table – on other Royal Caribbean ships, the red sauce joint is called Portofino. I believe I found the reason they didn’t carry the name over to Allure and Oasis of the Seas – Portofino doesn’t get very good reviews. Unfortunately, I can’t give one to Giovanni’s either. The food was simply unremarkable except for the fresh sliced prociotto served as an appetizer. We didn’t like either dish we chose and left plenty of our dinner behind as it simply wasn’t good. On a side note, I was feeling a little mal de mar come on and asked our server to see if she could wrangle up some chopped ginger. She traced down a chef who brought some to the table from another restaurant on board. Props to her for that!
- Izumi – we had reserved Izumi, the ship’s sushi restaurant, for dinner but decided to scratch it and opt for lunch instead. The lunch menu is a very small menu consisting of a few sushi rolls, miso soup and a couple other items. The rolls we had were up to par.
- Samba Grill – I have to say, the best meals we had were at the Samba Grill, the ship’s Brazalian steakhouse. It’s here where you start your meal off by a trip to the salad bar followed by Gaucho service where “meat servers” bring different types of meat, chicken, pork and lamb for you to enjoy. I found the filet and the meat served here to be much better than what we had at Chop’s.
- 150 Central Park – the ship’s signature restaurant is also one of its most expensive. A fixed menu is served in six courses and can be paired with wine. We found the food to be good, although portions are small by design. Not a place to bring kids to dinner tho, as service takes about two hours and the menu is a bit foo-foo for the little ones.
- Chef’s Table – we originally reserved the $95 per person Chef’s Table dining experience, but after seeing the menu, we backed out. With a table set for just 16 people, a chef prepares each course while a somilleir pairs it with a wine. We opted to go back to Samba Grill.
We did not partake in the main dining room at all and only went to the buffet style lunch in the Windjammer Cafe once. We did however, take advantage of the complimentary cocktails served during lunch and dinner hours in the Concierge Lounge. We also had lunch in the Lounge one day and generally went their for pre-dinner canapes each night before dinner. This Lounge is reserved for suite guests and guests who reach a certain level of “status” with the line.
So how was the food? One night a dinner we asked each other that question and we both came to the consensus that “you can tell they’re cooking for 6,000.” I have had much better cruise ship food. I also think we were the only people on board who did not have a slice of the pizza offered for free at Sorrento’s, the ship’s pizza parlor. Billed as NY Style, it looked more like “frozen pizza style” and was not appetizing looking at all.
We did enjoy having a hot dog, a couple two-three donuts, and some tacos at Rita’s Cantina on the boardwalk, not to mention a burger at Johnny Rockets.
Bars are everywhere, but try to get a drink before 2pm. Only select bars are open that early in the drinking day, but this is vacation right? Drinks are priced at what I call “resort-like” prices such as $4.50 for a bottle of Red Stripe beer or $9 for a martini. If you’re on a budget, these add up quickly. We did about $700 in damage at the ship’s bars on this shortened 5 day cruise.
We took in the Broadway production of CHICAGO which is a must see, a Motown Tribute, Blue Planet and the comedy show. We didn’t have time to see any of the shows in the ship’s Aqua Theatre during this shortened cruise. The shows we did see were very good and the crowd enjoyed each of them. The comedian’s acts were adult themed, so be prepared for penis jokes and plenty of f-bombs.
Tip – make sure you get to the theatres at least 30 minutes before the show starts, they fill up fast, you can have a drink, and don’t have to fight people who feel the need to save 8 seats even though seat saving isn’t allowed. I found that the seat savers are generally those who understand English fluently until the exact moment you ask, “are these taken?”
No we didn’t Zip Line through Central Park, we didn’t take surf lessons on the FlowRider and we stayed out of the urine puddles, also known as swimming pools. We didn’t get off in Cozumel or Nassau, the two port stops, as they were “been there, done that, don’t want to go there ever again” ports.
We spent most of our time in the Royal Promenade, on the Boardwalk or in the comfort and relaxation of our suite and balcony. I’d say we spent a large amount of time in the different bars around the ship, but I don’t want you to think all we did was drink!
The ship itself is simply amazing. The size of the vessel makes getting from Point A to Point B a challenge at times especially after a big meal or a few Torched Cherry Vodka & Cokes. Interactive touch-screens throughout the ship direct you to what’s on that floor, how to get to your stateroom, dinner menus, wait times at different restaurants and more. You will find yourself using those quite often either to find something to do or to find your way back to your cabin.
Coming from someone who has sailed on the luxury all-inclusive lines, I found the “nickle and diming” to get old quick. Yes, there are plenty of fee-free food outlets to choose from, but there are plenty of pay-to-play as well. Unless you purchased a soda pass, you’re paying for every soda. Want a burger at Johnny Rockets? You’re paying for that. Taco at Rita’s Cantina? You’re paying for that. Yucky pizza at Sorrento’s? Well, that’s free and so are the hot dogs and doughnuts. Oh, and there’s a Starbucks.
While you can ride the Carousel on the Boardwalk, if you want Zoltar to look into your future, that will cost you one swipe of your SeaPass card which equates to one buck. That was the one thing that really shouted “CHEAP BASTARDS” to me. If you have to charge a buck for that, but you can eat a hot dog for free, something’s wrong. By the way, Zoltar was a little lonley. Every time I walked by, nobody was making a “donation.”
There is something to say about the “all inclusive” that other lines offer.
- Ship – Amazing
- Suite – Amazing
- Food – Blah
- Entertainment – Great
- Bars – Plentiful, but need to open more bars earlier
- Pool Area – Huge!
- Casino – Smoking and Non-Smoking – Very Big
Would I do it again? I’m proud to say I did spent a week on the largest passenger ship in the world, but I wouldn’t be rushing back to do it again. While the ship and its amenities were great and I didn’t feel like I was sharing the ship with 6,000 others, this is one of those things I’m going to put in the been-there-done-that file. I’d like to give Royal Caribbean another shot by trying out a smaller ship, but I’m really spoiled by the pampering and all-inclusive benefits the small ship lines provide. But who knows, maybe I’ll give Oasis of the Seas a try and see how Allure’s inches-smaller sister ship compares.
Did I tease you with the few pictures above? Do you want to see more? Of course you do! Click here for the full album on Picasa or watch the slideshow below.
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