The largest cruise ship in the world at 220,000-tons. A techno-wonder, Great for family activities and entertainment
Allure of the Seas, at 220,000-ton debuted December 30, 2010 as the sister ship to Oasis, the other biggest cruise ship in the world ever built by at least 30% - both in size and in passenger capacity. But lest you think Allure is just an expanded version of any other cruise ship, a thought that does not appeal to some people, let me explain that Allure (and Oasis) is not just another cruise ship. It is a completely new design in ships unlike anything ever built before. Whereas previous Royal Caribbean mega-ships feature one area that the company now refers to as a "neighborhood," the open indoor expanse called the Royal Promenade, Allure of the Seas has seven such neighborhoods including; a larger Royal Promenade, Central Park, the Boardwalk, the Entertainment Zone, the Youth Center, the Sports Zone and the Spa and Fitness center.
The two new open air neighborhoods, Central Park and the Boardwalk, are what make the ship truly unique in design, aside from her overwhelming size, of course. Central Park is wrought with living trees and rambling vines - surrounded by cozy shops and cafés. The Boardwalk is a mini-Coney Island a busy fun-zone with a real carousel, free donuts, a candy store, ice cream parlor and two restaurants, Johnny Rockets and The Seafood Shack. At the far aft end of the ship is an "AquaTheater" for swimming during the day and spectacular water-themed production shows at night.
Also on the Boardwalk is the free carousal, a lovely, authentic merry-go-round from the early 1900s with a classic menagerie of wooden animals to ride from frogs to zebras, ostriches, lions and bears. Towards the aft end of the Boardwalk is the ultra-impressive AquaTheater - the venue for the water-based shows featuring water acrobatics including extreme high dives, a trampoline and even synchronized swimming. This venue has the potential to be one of the most impressive shows on the ship, but was not quite ready for the first cruise we sailed upon. What was supposed to be a 45 minute show was only 20-minutes, and it was obvious that many parts were still just in the rehearsal stage.
One little item many people will notice and wonder about are the red/green "traffic signals" embedded in the rock climbing walls across from the theater. Those are actually there to tell the divers the pool is clear of underwater movable platforms and equipment, the green light meaning it is "all clear" to dive from the 58-foot platform.
The two uppermost decks comprise the sports zone with two flo-rider surfing machines, a complete kid's water park, a "beach-entrance" pool, a miniature golf course, ping pong and basketball, rock-climbing, two swimming pools and an adults-only serenity area with two hot tubs cantilevered over the sides of the ship. One of the most unique features is the zip-line with takes you an a 5-second ride over the boardwalk. This is a free activity, as are all sports activities on Allure, but it requires signing a waiver and putting on all kinds of gear. In the end it took the staff about five to ten minutes to suit up each individual, and there were dozens of people in line. Not worth the wait for anyone who has ever ziplined before.
Not far away from the Sports Zone you will find one of the largest youth zones at sea - planned so the youngsters can enjoy the sports facilities without having to wander far from their dedicated facilities.
During the day, the Solarium at the forward end of the ship offers health-conscious cuisine with no serving over 500 calories. At night, the same space becomes a health-conscious full-service restaurant charging $20 per person. It is fully possible to eat vegetarian or even vegan on Allure of the Seas.
The Allure Royal Promenade is longer, taller and wider than the Freedom and Voyager-class ships. Here you'll find the boutiques found on the Freedom class vessels, including the Mondo Coffee Bar ($2.50 per cappuccino but plenty of free regular coffee plus delicious free pastry and sandwiches); Sorrentos for free pizza and pastries anytime; a champagne bar, and various gift shops. Missing from previous ships are the Ben & Jerry's ice cream stand and "A Close Shave," male tonsorial parlor charging an outrageous $72 for a shave. The English-style Globe and Atlas Pub for beer lovers is still there, it features a live acoustic guitarist playing favorites, and the On Air Club which is mostly a karaoke club and live music lounge is right next door. Up above the Royal Promenade is another level for strolling with additional shops and nooks. Here you will find the traditional Royal Caribbean Schooner Bar, but for the first time it feels more like an afterthought rather than an important room. The main feature of the Royal Promenade, however, is the Rising Tide Bar, a lounge that is also an elevator between the Royal Promenade and Central Park, two decks above it. It boards every 15 minutes and takes about five minutes to complete the ride to the other level.
Central Park, the other large outdoor area other than the Boardwalk, features the Parkside Art Gallery, the Vintage Wine Bar, restaurants such as Giovanni's Table, Chops Grille and 150 Central Park. There are cozy walkways around the skylights for the Royal Promenade below with live trees and vines. Tiers of staterooms with verandahs line both sides of the Boardwalk and Central Park.
This is an active ship, but even those who can't do all of what Allure offers will enjoy watching those who can. The 40-foot-high rock-climbing walls are immense. There is an ice-skating rink for recreational skating as well as for Ice Capades-type shows and a mini-golf course. There's a three-story dining room and one of the biggest casinos at sea.
There are literally miles of public corridors, but the hallways are occasionally "jiggered" so you don't get a sense of the full distance, plus excellent interactive signage precludes anyone from getting too grievously lost. These interactive computer screens will tell you exactly how to find anything you want. You tell it where you want to go and it instantly displays a map on how to get there. However, after a simple "let's go see the ship!" comment leads you out the door, by the time you return to your cabin you will feel like Marco Polo.
We found the food and service in the Opal dining room to be surprisingly faster and better than we expected. The key is that so many people choose to eat in many alternative dining spots. Our food arrived hot and in a timely manner.
Royal Caribbean has made a number of improvements to youth and teen programming. One new program is Adventure Theater, developed by Camp Broadway in New York City to give kids an immersion into the performing arts. On each RCI sailing, teens and kids can learn acting fundamentals, vocalization, and dance techniques during a series of three 45-minute Adventure Theater sessions.
Another innovative program is Scratch DJ101 classes, which are available to all ages, along with special two-hour sessions just for teens on Liberty of the Seas. After their lessons, teens can showcase their music mixing knowledge in a graduation performance that friends and family can attend.
RCI has added new activities for those three to five years old in conjunction with Fisher-Price. Some of the new themes include Chefs on Deck, which involves role playing for preschoolers; Dino Adventure; and Train-O-Mania.
Allure is the first Royal Caribbean ship to offer a nursery for infants and toddlers 6 months to 3 years. So far, no charge for these services has been announced and this is a great amenity for young couples who want to enjoy their vacation without baby onboard once in awhile. The minimum age for bringing a child onboard is six months.
Best For People Who Want
Bragging rights to a ticket upon the world's largest cruise ship. The feeling of a city-at-sea; Mass appeal to children of all ages; non-stop nightlife, extensive sports equipment, wide variety of onboard entertainment options
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
A small ship with lots of quiet spaces; single, open seating or intimate dining; a close-to-the-sea cruise experience.
Despite the massive size of the ship, the one thing you will notice is that Royal Caribbean spared no expense in designing the ship. It is a strikingly beautiful ship, not just in size but also in detail. The design of the ship is the best "work of art" on the ship. There are cantilevered hot tubs, arching balcony balustrades, crisscross beams, tons of glass and beautiful plants, woodwork finishings and tasteful finishings everywhere. The atriums boast tall modern sculptures rising several decks. Glass elevators in the vertical atriums at each end of the promenade make for breathtaking views of the interior of the ship. The size alone here is not the attraction of the ship, it is that they managed to finish every single detail in an eye-pleasing manner that is most impressive.
The breathtaking Royal Promenade, longer than a football field and wider than three lanes of traffic, and another deck taller than the Freedom-class ships has natural light streaming in through skylights in the roof. There are not as many inside staterooms to the Promenade as they are on Voyager and Freedom-class vessels. Those windows were almost always shuttered anyway, so people on the outside could not see what was happening on the inside. The mall is always dazzlingly illuminated, unless the lighting effects are turned on for the Mardi Gras-style parades complete with stilt walkers, streamers and confetti.
Video: Promenade Parade
The enormous Casino , through which passengers must pass on deck four to get the Ice Rink called "Studio B" and the Opal Theater main show lounge, is gilded to within an inch of its life, with nearly hundreds of slots and tables for blackjack, craps, roulette and Caribbean Stud Poker. There are banks of gaming tables, twice as large as most cruise ship casinos. There is no live poker, but there video Texas Hold'em games.
Video: Royal Caribbean Ice Show
Further along (aft) you find "Entertainment Central," a first for Royal Caribbean."Comedy Live" is the first dedicated comedy night club at sea. There are three "family oriented" shows each night and an "adults only" show close to midnight every night. You also find "Jazz on 4," which features a house jazz band doing several sets nightly. Across from these two show rooms is "Blaze" referred to as one of the "hottest nightclubs at sea." We have to say it is a welcome departure from the supercilious dungeon-like atmosphere of the Voyager and Freedom-class vessels for the nightclub in the same spot. This area was actually something of a dead-zone on those ships, but Allure has brought it to life nicely.
The gorgeous Opal Theater, a state-of-the-art 1,350-seat show lounge, is where guests will see the "Las Vegas-style Production shows" on the ship. While it is not any larger than on any other Royal Caribbean ships, it is the most beautiful theater they have ever made. This is the lounge where they will show "Chicago -the Musical" (the fully licensed Broadway version) as well as the original acrobatic show "Come Fly with me." They also feature special entertainers who come in and work the ship for short periods of time.
There are several other entertainment venues sprinkled throughout the ship: Along the Royal Promenade you have the Brit-like "Globe and Atlas" Pub. Next Door is "On Air" which we mentioned features karaoke as well as "family disco dancing". Across the promenade is "Boleros" which features Salsa music with a live band all night long. This became the favorite hangout for the Latino crowd onboard.
On the upper tier of the Royal Promenade is Dazzles; a ballroom with a live orchestra and a commanding view overlooking Central Park which is stunning at night.
In fact, one thing you have to notice about Allure is the manner in which every room seems to take on just the right number of passengers, no place was so crowded no one could get in, and no place was so quiet no one wanted to go there.
The best spots for being alone with a book and a fantastic sea view is the Viking Crown Lounge high atop deck 17. Nearby is the Loft Lounge and the Pinnacle Chapel. There are cabins on this deck around the observation lounge, a first for Royal Caribbean, and even on the level one deck higher, deck 18! Personally, I'm too faint hearted to sleep comfortably up there.
The ship's elegant main restaurant, the Opus Dining Room is three decks tall and features a stunning crystal chandelier and a grand, three-deck staircase. Breakfast and lunch are both served in the dining room, but people are seated by the maitre D' filling up each seat of one large table at a time - you will be seated in close proximity to strangers. For dinner, the bottom deck (3) is reserved for people who prefer old-style pre-assigned dining with the same table and waiters every night, first seating is at 6:15 pm and second seating is at 8:45. Decks 4 and 5 offer "anytime dining" where guests can arrive for dinner whenever they please during the hours it is open, generally from 6:00 pm to 9:30 pm.
The vast Windjammer Lido deck restaurant is for casual buffet-style meals. It is surprisingly uncrowded most of the time, due to the large number of alternative options for coffee and pastry one can find all over the ship. Breakfast is probably the busiest meal, but the buffet is also open at dinnertime for those people who just want to pick up a fast, casual dinner. Nearby you will find the Izumi Japanese Restaurant, open only for dinner and with a la carte pricing. Also on the Sports Deck is the "Wipe Out Cafe" with freshly cooked hamburgers, hotdogs, fries, etc., all free.
Central Park is the home of the finest dining venues on the ship. Giovanni's Table, the alternative Italian restaurant, is a lovely intimately-lit venue with family-style servings for lunch ($10 per person) and dinner ($15 per person). Chop's is a staple Royal Caribbean grill for steaks, chops and large lavish desserts. Well worth the $25 service fee.
"150 Central Park" is the finest dining on the ship. The restaurants typically serves an 8-course tasting menu for $35, not including wine. Two different wine-pairing packages are available offering a drink along with each course. One is $55 and the other is $75 per person. The food is exquisitely delicious.
One of the best surprises, food-wise, on Allure is the no-charge "Park Cafe". One can go to this small deli-style cafe at any time and place an order for a freshly made sandwich. They hand you a number and allow you to select any seat. Of course, being daytime in Central Park there are many al fresco tables available. Your order will be made; meat sliced and cheese grilled on the spot, and brought to your table - no charge. You can even grab a bag of Lay's potato chips to go with it.
Inside the Royal Promenade you find "Sorrento's Pizza" with ready-made slices, or even better, you can order a pie made to your specs on the spot, no charge! They have the ingredients for you to see; anchovies, mushrooms, onions, olives, pepperoni, etc. I heard these pies were delectable, but since most people can't wait, the slices of different styles were more popular.
Cafe Promenade has fingers sandwiches, pastry and hot tea or coffee; all free. Mondo Coffee Bar has pretty much the same offerings, also free, but more seating.
The Cupcake Cupboard may be one of the most controversial subjects on the ship. The cupcakes are delectable, heavy on the frosting and with toppings like coconut, chopped peanuts, chocolate chips, etc., but the price is $2.50 per cupcake! Never have I heard so many complain about the cost of a cupcake. But they are delicious.
On the Boardwalk you will find Johnny Rockets (service charge $4.95 per person) and the Seafood Shack (8.95 per person). At Johnny Rockets you get all the food you want including an ice cream sundae. But if you want a shake it costs an additional $5.00. Does that really make sense? No, but that is the way it is. I cannot personally recommend the seafood shack. I had the fried selection of shrimp, calamari and whitefish. Only the whitefish was any good, the other two were mealy and I could not even tell which was which. You also get an appetizer and dessert. The appetizer was a nice crab-based salad with pita chips. The desserts looked good but I skipped it.
I already mentioned the free donut shop. The Ice Cream Parlor, replacing Ben 'n Jerry's, features a number of delicious sounding sundaes like banana splits. The prices are about $5.50 for a special sundae. You can get a simple ice cream cone for $2.25. There is also free soft-serve ice cream available in three places on the ship, but not nearly as easy to find as on the Freedom-class.
The Brazilian Churasscuria forward on deck 17 is one of the best restairants onboard with freshly grilled meats delivered to your table on hot skewers - all you can eat for $25 per person.
We have to say that we were remarkably surprised at the level of service for a ship this size. It is obvious that Royal Caribbean has decided to up the ante on service when it comes to Allure, and we universally found that everyone we talked to was very eager to help us. If they did not know the answer every single crewmember has a walkie-talkie and they can call up anyone they need. Not once did we receive a "that is not my department" style of reply. It was always, "let me see what I can find out for you."
One of the biggest glitches came from the reservation system for the shows, restaurants and shore excursions. People who had made reservations online in advance of the cruise found that show times had been changed once they arrived. There was supposed to be a system to remind you of what reservations you already had, but unfortunately the interactive television service often yielded error messages just when you thought you were close to getting an answer. You are supposed to be able to make reservations for shows, restaurants and shore excursions with this TV system and sometimes it worked, but most of the time it resulted in an error message saying "We are unable to process your request at this time." This was the ship's first cruise, and we hope that this will be sorted out soon.
Room service is surprisingly efficient, usually telling us delivery would be a lot later than it actually was. Be prepared to tip on delivery even though there is nothing to sign. There is a small service charge of $3.95 for delivery between 12:00 midnight and 5:30 a.m.
One of the spottiest functions of the ship so far is Internet access. There are only 10 workstations for public use, five on deck 7 and five more on deck 9, plus four or five more in the card room on deck 14 aft. The TV set in every cabin is an Internet workstation, but the keyboard and mouse which comes with them do not respond to commands soon enough, making them virtually useless for Internet.
About the best thing you can do on the in-cabin workstation is set up a wireless Internet account (no, you do not have to go to the Internet cafés to do this). But for a wireless account you need a laptop. The ship says it has some for rent but that the supply is limited. Bring your own laptop, you will be far happier. The connection is surprisingly good - when the satellite is working properly. We heard rumors that it went down frequently before the ship began regular service, but we do not know that for a fact. We are also hearing that it has improved somewhat since regular service began although we had one day when it was down for over 12 hours.
Royal Caribbean suggests a per person per day gratuity of $3.50 for the stateroom attendant ($5.75 if sailing in a suite); $3.50 for the waiter; $2.50 for the Assistant Waiter; .75 Head Waiter. These gratuities may be paid in cash or charged to your onboard account. For children sailing as third or fourth passenger in the stateroom, tipping is at the parents' discretion. If you want these charges added to your accounts you must tell Royal Caribbean at least two days before the cruise ends. Otherwise, be prepared to count out the cash and hand it to the people who serviced you personally.
A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Additional gratuities for room service, spa, casino and other staff are at your discretion.
To reiterate; the main entertainment is in the AquaTheater, the On Air Club Ice Rink and the Opal Theater. Smaller venues throughout the ship offer dancing and music throughout the night. Without a doubt, entertainment is one of the main attractions for Allure. It is the second cruise ship to ever fully license the rights to show a Broadway show in its entirety; Chicago - the Musical. The cast is extremely talented, and you would easily pay as much as $90 ticket to see this show on Broadway. The show is a little long by cruise ship standards and it bogs down a bit expertly in the middle, but you get the full show as written - and that is quality entertainment, especially for a cruise ship.
Allure also has the DreamWork Experience - an agreement with the maker of such animated hits as Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Megamind and others. There is a full 3D movie theater onboard to show these movies in their original format. The movie's star characters also make appearances during the Grand Promendae parades and at certain functions for the kids.
The next venue is the AquaTheater which offers a water-acrobatics show in the style of "La Reve" at the Wynn is Las Vegas or Eau by Cirque d' Soleil. The cast has extremely fit divers and acrobats, but the stage itself is the most impressive part of the show. There are three different diving platform on each side, one of 10 feet, 32 feet and 58 feet. The pool is just 13 feet deep but has all kinds of apparatus that allows it to change from a full pool to a hard stage (without that apparatus the pool would be 17 feet deep). There is also a hard floor that recedes to reveal a trampoline for more dramatic acrobatic action. So, part of the show is acrobatic, part of it is extreme diving and part of it is synchronized swimming. In truth, the show we saw on our cruise, the first passenger cruise, was only about 1/2 ready and we did not see many things that will be included later. I am sure the show has promise and will be one of the prime attractions when it is ready, but that could take a month or two.
The third major show everyone should see is in the ice rink theater called "Studio B." The show is called "Frozen in Time," and is based on the works of Hans Christian Andersen. I am not a big fan of ice skating, but I still enjoyed this show a great deal. It is more than just skating, it has impressive costuming and beautiful music and lighting effects. It went off without a hitch, just like Hairspray, and is a must-see event on the ship.
The balance of entertainment was described in the public rooms - Comedy Live has comedians lightly, Jazz on 4 has live jazz music nightly. Boleros has live Salsa music nightly, Dazzles has a live big band for dancing, there is a piano bar and the English Globe and Atlas pub features a guitarist/singer doing requests. Various surprise events happen throughout the day and night - don't miss the parades in the Royal Promenade.
Allure does not skimp on balcony cabins. The ship has 37 cabin categories to choose from, many with views unique to Allure of the Seas. These include the Royal Promenade cabins with picture windows, balcony cabins facing inwards (not to the sea) over the Boardwalk and Central Park, and of course several balcony cabins facing the sea.
Most impressive, and expensive, are the Loft Suites with two decks of floor space, a living room downstairs with a staircase leading to the bedroom above. The best thing about these suites is two decks of floor-to-ceiling, double-height windows; solid glass for spectacular sea views no matter where in the suite you are. You don't have to worry about who is seeing you when out to sea, but be sure to close those curtains at night!
There's lots of storage. Standard amenities include flat panel color TV with CNN and movies; a safe; controllable air conditioning and hair dryers. There are tubs only in the highest category staterooms; most have only showers.
Some of the more interesting cabins are the inside promenade cabins with (non-opening) windows looking down upon the interior promenade. During the day these add plenty of space to the room, although you have to sit on the couch to look out at the action. The probems occur at night when the light in your stateroom become brighter than what;s outside, essentially making your cabin a fishbowl for the world to watch.
The most noticeable thing is that the fitness area no longer dominates the top forward deck areas. On Allure the bulk of the Vitality at Sea Spa is on deck five. The ship's well-equipped gym still draws serious fitness buffs with its full range of state-of-the-art machines. The two-level Steiner Spa, with its winding staircase, looks more like the lobby of a boutique hotel, albeit with a Greek motif.
There is a jogging track that completely circumnavigates the ship on deck 5. At the stern are a number of deck chairs if you are looking for a really private hideaway. You can reach the jogging track from the fitness center, or through the glass doors in the Royal Promenade.