Year Started: 1969
Ships in Fleet: 23
Summary: The largest and most technically impressive cruise ships in the world. Great for kids, families and adventurous adults. A large fleet, but Oasis and Brilliance are often cited as favorites
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Seniors.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean, Mediterranean
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:UK, Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda
Good for: Disabled Travelers. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Canada, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Bahamas, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Families. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Bermuda, Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Bermuda, Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Western Mediterranean, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Eastbound Transatlantic
Good for: Children`s Programs. Families. Teens.
Good for: Teens. Group. Families.
Regions:Singapore, Malaysia, Phuket & Port Kelang,
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Eastern Mediterranean, Caribbean, Eastbound Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Families. Overall Service.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:China (as of May 2015)
Good for: First-time Cruisers. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:Alaska, Hawaii, Tasmania
Good for: Children`s Programs. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Hawaii, Alaska, South Pacific
Good for: Families. Group. Overall Service.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Suez Canal, Bahamas, Dubai
Good for: Children`s Programs. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Brazil, Western Mediterranean, Greek Isles
Good for: Seniors. Families. Singles.
Regions:Norwegian Fjords, British Isles, Scan Russia, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Children`s Programs. Group. Families.
Regions:Toyko To Taipei, Australia, Asia
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
This cruise varied between average to very poor. Many issues - the largest ones described below. Royal Caribbean seems only interested in extracting as much money as possible while denying any responsibility to provide service or satisfaction.
Food - generally low average to inedible - some dishes served in the dining room appeared to have no relationship to descriptions - some I wouldn't feed to a dog - beef stroganoff is one example
Smoking - we paid for a balcony - couldn't use it much of the time as the people next door were smokers â€“ every time thy lit up, our cabin was filled with smoke an rapidly began smelling like an ashtray
Guest services desk staff - generally unhelpful to downright aggressive if faced with a question they didn't like e.g. when we queried the smoking policy we were angrily â€“ yes angrily â€“ told smoking was allowed on balconies â€“ basically tough if we didn't like it
Promises to return answers â€“ on 2 occasions restaurant (Main/My-time & Giovanni's) Managers promised to get back to us the day we made the query â€“ neither did â€“ and this in on yourrecords as found out by your guest services staff when my husband complained for the 3rd time that the vanity in our cabin had still not been repaired â€“ "oophs" was the response â€“ not satisfactory
Maintenance â€“ on first entering our cabin we found the corner of the vanity's previous repair had failed â€“ there was an obvious and open crack of about 3 â€“ 4 centimetres in one corner, with one edge raised. We pointed this and the piece of piping on the sofa that was detached to the rom steward â€“ he was distressed about the piping but tried to tell us the vanity was not broken. When we insisted it was broken and needed to be fixed, he got on the phone and reported it to maintenance. A few days later the piping was fixed but the vanity was not. I met the maintenance man in the corridor and queried him about this â€“ he said there was no report of a broken vanity â€“ so I showed it to him and he agreed that it was broken and also got on the phone to report it. Still some days after and still not fixed, my husband spoke to guest services â€“ no reports of a broken vanity â€“ what happens to these reports â€“ anything too hard seems to disappear into telephone space. After considerable insistence a maintenance person was dispatched and, on examining the vanity, felt it couldn't be fixed until port. More discussion with my husband and suddenly the maintenance crew found they could fix the problem after all â€“ it took about Â½ hour and a small amount of filler
Ship: Mariner of the Seas, Dec 11, 2011. As usual our Royal Caribbean cruise was wonderful. This was our first sailing since achieving our Diamond Level status. It is certainly worth being Loyal to Royal to achieve the high tier status perks.
The ship was all decked out with Chirstmas decor and is a beautiful ship on its own. Clean and well maintained.
The only issue; the servers in the Diamond and above breakfast venue. The staff was pretty sullen, as if were a chore for them to wait on us. The staff in the Windjammer were more welcoming and accommodating. Although getting coffee in the windjammer took an act of congress. I realize they had extra sanitation issues to take care of to keep us all healthy. I can wait for coffee versus getting sick. Good Job people.
I do enjoy the style of cruising Royal Caribbean offers and I do realize there are times when things are not perfect.
The sailing before ours was a sick ship. It is amazing how everything comes together to ensure the ship is as germ free as possible before we boarded. Our crew wentover and above to ensure all passengers sanitized their hands. The crew was constantly disinfecting all surfaces.
There were 500 children on board and Royal Caribbeans children's programs kept them very busy. You rarely saw any bored children.
Our first cruise was on Royal Caribbean so they are special in our hearts. We have sailed on other lines and enjoy them, but our heart is with RCCL.
Never got the chance to sail with them and never will. Here's what they deleted that I put on their facebook within 2 minutes of it being up there. Too bad you can't edit the entire internet, eh?
DO NOT PLAN YOUR HONEYMOON WITH THEM. IF THEY CANCEL IT AND YOU HAVE PAID FOR AIRFARE THAT IS NONREFUNDABLE THEY DO NOTHING TO HELP YOU.
"I cannot believe you people cancelled my honeymoon after it WAS ALREADY BOOKED! How do you not know you were going to be moving the ship to the caribbean in December, you know, 7 months from now? What did you guys just randomly decide that? What are we supposed to do about the $2,000 plane tickets WE ALREADY BOUGHT?! And you guys were completely unsympathetic and didn't care, just said if we book another cruise with you you'll give us some onboard credit?!
ONE, my would I want to book with a cruiseline that has cancelled my honeymoon. What's to say you won't cancel anything else I book?
TWO, you have NOTHING similar anytime close to my Dec 2nd wedding.
I am frantic right now. We are going to lose our$2,000 plane tickets if we don't rebook with the same airline going to the same place but you guys don't have anything similar so how the heck can we?! I can't begin to describe how completely heartbroken and disappointed I am with your customer service and your policies regarding cancellations. I am not made of money, my fiance and I are paying for everything ourselves and we decided to splurge on this cruise because it was my dream and now we're going to be out 2,000 because you guys had no idea what you were doing?
I will never again book with RCI and I will be sure to tell everyone I know about this ordeal. About the lack of sympathy. About the complete disregard for the fact we're two students who saved for ages to be able to afford this but nevermind that. We're irrelevant to a big corporation like you guys. I truly cannot even express the depth of my sadness right now and thank you for ruining my dream trip, probably the only trip of this sort I will be able to afford in my lifetime and thank you for the complete disregard for the money already invested. Thanks"
CABINS The best cabin I've ever had on any cruise ship, period! We had a balcony room (10278) which had the good layout with the bed by the balcony door so we had plenty of room to access our closet. The bathroom is well laid out and felt spacious, and the balcony was the largest we've ever had. The balcony was wide AND deep and extremely roomy. I also appreciated the extra drawer space and cubbyholes all around the stateroom. The closet even had two racks for hanging and we had plenty of room for all of our clothes and gear. Bring an extra outlet plug for phone chargers, etc. since outlets are scarce.
SERVICE - CABIN The service on a whole was excellent. Our cabin steward was incredible. I am difficult to impress and he impressed me. I won a bottle of champagne in the casino raffle the second night on the cruise. I wanted to save it to drink at Thanksgiving so I set it down in our stateroom. When we came back in, our steward had brought 2 champagne glasses AND a large separate bucket of ice forthe champagne. We also never had to ask for anything more than once. The first night I requested 2 extra pillows and an extra towel and we had them all week. Another amazing feat: we were called / greeted by name all week long.
SERVICE - FOOD OUTLETS The My Time Dining service was a bit spotty. We sat at the same table every night and had the same waiter / assistant waiter but they just weren't very good. We were practically ignored several nights (waited 20 minutes just to place an order, never got items we ordered, received the incorrect entrees, etc.). Several nights I sat with an empty water glass for over 15 minutes! On "lobster night" I ordered the lobster and a steak since I thought surf and turf sounded good and I asked for them to be served together. Alas, I was presented with the lobster first and only after I finished, they brought my steak -- but they removed my dirty silverware from my plate and set it down on the table to use with my second entree! I was taken aback by that. Normally waiters will bring fresh silverware. I've cruised with NCL many times and they truly "get" the freestyle concept. Royal Caribbean does not. I would not recommend My Time Dining since it's not "eat whenever you want." You have to have a reservation if you want to avoid waiting for a table -- and what's the point if you have to eat at a set time? The bar staff was friendly and the service at the specialty restaurants, including Johnny Rockets, was fantastic.
FOOD It's no secret that I think RCI has the worst food of any cruise line. I'm sad to say that the Oasis is no different. The food is just not good. The food in the main dining room was edible but not very tasty. I made a point to try everything on the "available every night" menu. The sirloin steak was adequate but had a weird texture. The roasted chicken was moist and tasty. Only the salmon was actually inedible and I had to order something else. Some of the menus were better than others, and some of the selections were better than others. Sugar free ice cream is offered in the dining room every night and the flavor changes daily. Food is subjective but RCI still has the worst food in the business.
The Windjammer buffet is absolutely disgusting, and I do not say that lightly. I took photos of the food and I wish I could post them here because a pictures really is worth a thousand words! The food was cold, bland and generally unappetizing. The Windjammer has the same soups / desserts as the main dining room on most nights so if there's something you liked at dinner, stop by the buffet if you need a midnight snack!
Sorrento's pizza had a good variety of pizzas and a made to order pizza bar. Promenade Cafe had poor quality cold sandwiches and desserts. Solarium Bistro had good vegetable options at their lunch buffet and a decent salad bar. Room Service was okay. The spinach dip and caesar salad were the best items on the menu. Avoid breakfast; we ordered it once and the bacon was served practicaly raw. The Boardwalk donut shop was really bad, but it was free.
The roast beef in the Park Cafe was good and I enjoyed the tossed to order salads (these salads aren't as good as the tossed to order salads in the main dining room at lunch time; go there and get big shrimp and premium ingredients like roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes and more). The service here was exceptional as well. We couldn't get reservations at most of the specialty restaurants but we did get to go to Giovanni's Table and Johnny Rockets several times. The food at Giovanni's was very, very good. Johnny Rockets had typical burgers but it was fun to munch on them while sitting out on the Boardwalk. Service was stellar at both. The best kept secret on the Oasis is Vintages, the wine bar! They have an extensive tapas menu of very tasty appetizers. We went there on several occasions. Ask for Ramona, she is wonderful and took great care of us. We were in Vintages almost every single night (Caymus cabernet by the glass for $20; combine that with a Gold member 2-for-1 coupon and it's a deal)!
ENTERTAINMENT I didn't like having to make reservations for all of the shows. I made them before we left home for all of the shows but we only ended up going to Hairspray. I didn't like having a set time that I had to be at a show, so we just stopped going. Hairspray was good and fun; not Broadway quality but good for a cruise ship. The sets were awesome! We also enjoyed the improv show (no reservations required) and of course Quest! As an animation fan, I was always excited to see the DreamWorks characters roaming about. The characters pay attention to the kids as well as the adults so I got some great photos. The Dreamworks parade was a ton of fun, and it was a thrill to take a flash mob dance class and then get to join in as the entertainment one evening! Ride the carousel, listen to karaoke, mini golf, flowrider, play music trivia...there was so much to do we didn't have time to do it all! The casino, the nicest I've ever seen at sea (and I live in Las Vegas!), was large with a non-smoking side and lots of fun slots. The Aqua Theater shows fun movies at night (the Grease sing-a-long was a blast). I was sort of surprised at the low quality of the lounge acts and house bands.
GOOD I was most impressed with, aside from the sheer awesomeness of the ship, the attitudes of all of the staff we encountered! Every single employee we dealt with, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, was happy, friendly, smiling and seemed very eager to please. I really feel like the crew of the Oasis tried really hard to make sure we had an awesome vacation. I did not encounter even one disgruntled employee. Not one. That is very rare on any cruise ship and I have never had that happen before. What really surprised me is that the ship never felt crowded. Embarkation and debarkation was easy, and our luggage was delivered to our stateroom about 30 minutes after we boarded. Amazing!
BAD Aside from the food, my only major complaint was the time it took to get back on board after being in port. It was ridiculous, especially in St. Maarten where it took us over one hour to get back on the ship! RCI is serious about security, however, and they x-ray everything and wand you down before you get back on. Don't even think about trying to bring alcohol on board, they are crazy about stopping you from doing that. It was the worst liquor patrol I've ever seen on any cruiseline. I also hope the Oasis will start to sail different ports because our itinerary was overcrowded and not that fun (Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten). Of course, we've "been there, done that" so we were going mostly for the ship!
THE FREAKING AWESOME Select pools and hot tubs are open 24 hours! Yes, 24 hours! We went swimming at 2:30 in the morning and it was awesome (the pools are freshwater, so no nasty salt in your mouth). There was also NO pushiness about shopping or recommended stores or any of that nonsense! I didn't hear one solicitation all week. I also majorly loved Vintages wine bar.
SUMMARY All in all this was a great cruise and I'm ready to sail the Oasis again. One thing is for certain: it is going to be extremely difficult to ever go back to a ship that's not an Oasis class! This ship has spoiled me. Take the Oasis: you won't be disappointed. It is truly an amazing vessel.
Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas may be described in a single word, "Awesome". The incredible size of the ship, with its sixteen decks and extra width allowed designers and innovators to incorporate features and amenities that have to be seen and experienced to be believed! The ship features major new areas that include "Central park", "Boardwalk" and a water theater along with familiar areas like the "Royal Promenade", ice rink, theater and pool deck areas, except they are all bigger. Our adult family occupied three adjoining oceanview cabins with balconies for the October 23, 2011 cruise to the western Caribbean with planned stops at Labadee, Haiti; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Cozumel, Mexico. A hurricane prevented the Cozumel stop so we doubled back for a Nassau stop. No review can really describe the ship fully. It must be experienced to be believed. It may take more than a single cruise. EMBARKATION: 6000 people boarded the Allure on October 23rd. We arrived a little before noon and were eating at the buffet within 30 minutes of parking our van across the street from the terminal 18 at Port Everglades. Parking is outside and justa two minute walk to the terminal. The cost is $15 per day. Check-in lines for each deck were formed inside. Our line for deck 8 had no other people in it. Have your set sail pass, personal ID and credit card ready. Pictures were taken by the check-in agent for security purposes and we ascended the escalators for get-on-board photos. HINT: Have photos taken as couples because they use facial recognition technology to group subsequent photos taken during the cruise. From there we entered the ship on deck 5, the Royal Promenade and went straight to deck 16 for the buffet in the Windjammer. It was crowded, but we found a table for 6. LUGGAGE: It was delivered to our cabins at just about the same time as we reached our cabins at 1:30 pm after lunch. CABINS: We had oceanview, balcony cabins on deck 8. The cabins are about 10% smaller than similar cabins on the Freedom class ships and the balconies are about 20% smaller. We did open the dividers between our three cabin balconies which made a very nice family meeting area. The cabins are furnished very similarly to those on other Royal Caribbean ships with two notable features, excellent bedding and upgraded electronics including an interactive television that worked well. We were pleased with the cabin location on the "Central Park" deck. SHIP: The Allure of the Seas is obviously unique and sets a high benchmark for guest options at sea. It is beautiful and especially so at night with all the special lighting. A walk through Central Park after dark is a real treat. It has electronic signage to assist in finding shortest routes around the ship. There are three places for computers with internet access. The crew kept the ship clean and beautiful. The elevators are plentiful enough so that wait times are reasonable, except for peak hours. ACTION CENTERS: We enjoyed 4 of the many action centers; Royal Promenade, Broadway, Central Park and the casino/ice rink deck. The Royal Promenade, wider than on the Freedom class ships, features the 24-hour cafÃ©, a pub, Sorrento's pizza, shops, guest services, and Boleros. The Diamond Club has a balcony on top of Boleros which overlooks the Royal Promenade. Broadway has Johnny Rockets, Rita's Cantina, a carousel and the water theater at the end of the ship. HINT: Johnny Rockets has a complimentary breakfast that is very good. Central Park has some of the alternative restaurants (read pay extra) as well as a cafÃ© that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is a nice walk, especially in the evening but not in the rain although the ship does provide umbrellas. Deck 4 features the best casino on any ship we have sailed on along with the ice show theater. There are lots of other action centers including the pool deck, spa and exercise areas but we are neither pool nor spa users. There is simply too much to do for a single 7 day cruise. ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment options are many. Featured shows include Chicago and Blue Planet in the theater, the AquaAria in the pool theater and the ice show. HINT: Do not miss either the water/diving show or Blue Planet. They were excellent. We also enjoyed brief stops in Dazzles, a club on deck 8 that featured very good music. There were music, dancing, parades, special shows, pool games, multiple bars, bingo and a lot more. We were tired at the end of every day. FOOD: The food was very good in every place we experienced. We tried breakfast in the Windjammer buffet and Johnny Rockets, lunch in Rita's Cantina, Johnny Rockets and the buffet, and dinners in the Adagio dining room. Dinners featured a large menu with entrees like corbina fish, chicken marsala, basa fish filet, lobster, salmon and nice desserts like cherries jubilee. We didn't try any of the alternative restaurants but they all had excellent menu choices. We also stopped by the cafÃ© on the Royal Promenade daily for an early morning coffee. SERVICE: The service was excellent! The restaurant staff, while serving its large crowd, was efficient, friendly and responsive. They made sure that timely service would meet the schedule of the people served. We do not like to spend a long time at dinner and our waiter was very accommodating. Staff, in every venue we used were excellent. CROWDS: We had read about the crowds in a few reviews and were alert to the possibilities of frequent long waits. Royal Caribbean has more experience with handling large numbers of people on its ships than any other cruise line and that experience shows. We did not experience lines during either embarkation or disembarkation. There were lines, similar to most ships we have been on, at peak hours such as the buffet on embarkation day, the first to disembark on port days, and the Royal Promenade during parades and feature events. HINT: Make reservations for shows before you board. The venues offer first access to those people with reservations and allows others to enter after 15 minutes before show time. We had consistently better seats for shows than we have ever had. DISEMBARKATION: The process was based on numbered bag tags for those who did not drag their own bags off the ship. Numbers were called from 7:15 AM onward. We had number 11 and got off about 7:45 AM. Bags were arranged by number in the terminal and easily retrieved. NOTE: There were a smaller number of bags for each number which was a significant innovation for expediting bag retrieval. We were called at 7:45 AM and were at the Ft. Lauderdale airport at 8:30 AM. Remember, there were 6000 people on board. SUMMARY: Great ship! You have to experience it to understand just how great it really is.
Allure of the Seas, Oct. 16, 2011
Ship Stats.. Allure of the Seas maiden voyage was December 5th, 2010, after leaving her Finland shipyard. Her Godmother is Fiona, (Shrek's wife) a Dreamworks character.
Allure of the Seas is 225,000 gross tons, 30 foot draft, 208 feet wide and 1,187 feet long. She can hold 5,400 guests at double occupancy or 6,296 guests total. Her crew is 2,165 members, with 2,704 staterooms within 16 passenger decks. To move all these passengers and crew up and down the ship, there are 24 guest elevators. Allure's cruising speed is 22 knots using fuel at the rate of 31 feet per gallon. The water consumption per day is 1700 tons.
Both Oasis and Allure have the first "aqua pools" at sea, being 17.9 feet deep. These pools are located the aft of the ship on deck number 6. The loft balcony cabins face this area and have a great view of any of the shows as well as the wake from the ship.
This had to be the quickest embarkment I have ever had. Our flight landed at 11:00 AM and I was onboard at noon,we literally walked on the ship and were eating a few minutes later. They take your sign/sail picture as you are checking in, so when you are handed your sign/sail card, you are good to board. As usual, cabins are you are not open to access until 1:00. The disembarkment took a bit longer, about 20 minutes, we were at the airport at 8:30. They have computer kiosk's on a few decks, so you can do your airline check-in the day before. They also offer baggage check-in for $20 each, where once you put your luggage out the night before, it will be taken to the airport and you will not see it until you land at your destination airport, nice.
There are seven different neighborhoods onboard Allure of the Seas: Adventure Ocean, The Boardwalk, Central Park, Entertainment Place, Pool & Parks, Royal Promenade and Vitality.
Central Park has the feeling of truly being in a park, with 12,175 plants, 62 vine plants, and 56 trees. They also pipe in sounds of birds during the daytime hours and crickets after dark.
There are 24 dining options onboard Allure of the Seas, with 37 different bars and lounges to choose from. There are 3 main dining rooms, one with the traditional dining option and the rest with the anytime. This was the second cruise in which I found myself with the anytime dining and I did give the main dining room a try, once for dinner and again for breakfast. I find the service, while good, just takes too long and with all the other options available on this huge ship, the Windjammer Marketplace seemed to serve an excellent variety for breakfast, lunch and even dinner. For six of the nights, we enjoyed our dinner there, with great variety and excellent food. I truly enjoyed their choice of soups each evening. They do bake all their breads and rolls onboard, always a different one to try each and every day.
The Neighborhoods: Adventure Ocean: kids area Central Park: cafÃ©'s, specialty restaurants, (Chops, Giovanni's Table, and 150 Central Park.) Boardwalk: Merry-go-round, Johnny Rockets, Ice Cream Parlor, 2 rock climbing walls and the aqua theater. Entertainment Place: Studio B, Comedy Live, Blaze, and Casino Royale. Pool & Sparks: 4 pools, including a volley ball pool and a "beach" pool with salt water. Royal Promenade: Most of all the shopping you will find on this deck, with a photo shop, lounges and restaurants. They run the parades through here and you can also go up one deck for a good viewing area. Vitality: Spa.
Cabins: Onboard Allure of the Seas, the cabins are basic, with a bathroom, sitting area, desk and a king size bed. On these ships there is an Ipad docking station with an actual clock on your desk. They also provide you with a computer keyboard to use the interactive TV if you wish to sign up for the internet. On the desk is also an outlet that allows you to plug in 3 different things, so there is no need to bring a power strip. Another nice feature in these cabins, the light switch to the bathroom is lit and there is soft lighting in the bathroom that stays on constantly, so a nice night light. Once you close the drapes to the balcony, they do not allow in any light, so the extra lighting is welcome. A nice alternative to an outside balcony and a little lower price are the Central Park balconies with a view of the back of the ship..
Ports of call: I picked the Eastern itinary, simpy because I have done numerous Westerns in the past. This ship alternates between the Eastern and Western routes. Our first stop was Nassau in the Bahamas. I have also been there a few times before, so I went to Atlantis on Paradise Island.
We were departing Nassau at 3:00, so time was a factor in this stop. They had mentioned, that in a few cruises, this stop left some passengers there. They then had to fly to the next port of call.
Next stop was St. Thomas. I had later learned that Allure has to dock at Cruz bay, which is not were I normally had docked here. You had to take a taxi over to the Havensight mall or in town. It was a mile or so walk if you wanted to go on your own. It was a great day to just stay onboard if you hadn't booked an excursion, which is what we ended up doing. Nice relaxing quiet day and we had the pools almost to ourselves.
Last stop was one of my favorite islands, St. Maarten. We had booked an excursion on some boats that required a bus trip to their harbour, but with some road construction, the ride was a lot longer to get there and return. Did not leave us with much shopping time.
Because of the size of the ship, it is very limited to where it can port. I think, when cruising on either Oasis or Allure, its for the ship and then the ports are a bonus.
A great feature on the ship, is when going ashore, you simply use an elevator and push the "gangway" button and it will automatically stop at the correct deck to get you off. You will then ride an actual escalator to the gangway and again when you return, nice!
A good tip here, is to pre-book your show reservations on-line before you even leave for your cruise. I had pre-booked a few, but not all. When you don't have reservations, 10 minutes before the show, they will start letting people with no reservations in, and in some cases, you don't always get in. We were extremely lucky to get into all the shows when waiting in the stand-by line.
This is where Allure truly stands out as the best shows on the seas. It is difficult where to start. It has the first ever aqua show I've seen onboard a ship. The pool is 17.9 feet deep, the largest performance pool on a ship. They actually have divers doing high dives along with some trampoline stunts. They have at least 2 different shows that I caught during the week. They also show movies on the two screens during some evenings and a light/water show to music that is pretty cool too.
Allure has the same Studio B that the Voyager, Freedom and Oasis class ships do. You can see a few different shows onboard, all excellent. The main one was called, "Ice Games", and surely worth the time to see.
Amber theater is the main theater for production shows, movies, etc. There was one headliner show we caught, with "Tony Tillman", who was very talented and entertaining. Another great show was, "Blue Planet", fantastic show, don't miss this one.
Be sure to see the comedy show, that also required reservations. Again, we didn't have any, so waiting in line to get in and were fortunate to grab a seat. These are usually later in the evening and are for adults only. You can see some great comedy.
Since Royal Caribbean has a contract with Dreamworks, you can catch different characters throughout the ship during a week's cruise. They also have at least 2 parades that you will want to catch in the Royal Promenade. Just be sure to find a good viewing area at least 20 minutes before the start.
Future builds for Royal Caribbean: The next project for Royal Caribbean is the, "Project Sunshine". They are so far saying that this class of ship will be smaller than the Oasis class, and even smaller than the Freedom of the Seas size. At this time, they are not giving us much information, but I am sure in the near future, we will be hearing more about this exciting new class of ship.
While both Oasis and Allure ships have more entertainment, and dining options, they are very restricted as to where they can travel, so the ship is the destination. Keep your ears open for more information on the new builds that we may see as soon as 2014...
More Allure of the Seas pictures:
Allure of the Seas
This was the pits, 15 nights...and offered $100.00 each for next RCL cruise...my wife said no way, even if next cruise on NCL was offered for free...she is not going ever again. I would have given them another chance, but my wife is adamant about such poor service and treatment.
We have been on about a dozen cruises so far, we are in our 60s and both retired.
We checked 3 bags and two cases of water, with the dock's porter and gave him the GTR, guarantee, luggage tag, and $6.00 tip. [we have sailed out of that Hawaii port with NCL 2 times before with GTRs and never a problem.]
We got in line for check in, and to get boarding cards...after about 30 minutes, the girl could not get the system to check us in. She called her supervisor, he tried for 30 minutes too, then said, the reason we can't check you in, is that you don't have a room assignment. Let me go get you one. He left and 30 minutes later, had not come back. The girl's shift was ending or she was to go on break,so she went to look for him. He came back and said, you will have to go back over there where all those people are sitting and wait for a room assignment. I then insisted that they give me back my check-in paper work and passports back too. They didn't want to do that. But I was very firm about it. We went to that section, and 3 of the ship's uniformed staff were there handing out room cards, calling names. After a few minutes, I asked if all these people were waiting for room assignments. The staff member said "No, they all have rooms assigned and are waiting for cards."
I then asked to speak to the top person in charge, of the check in process, as we the other supervisor misled us.
A few minutes later, and elderly gentleman, think name was Walter, came over and said, "I don't know why he told you to wait here, let me check, do you have your confirmation paper." He said could thing you got that back, or we would have had a real problem. He came back 3 minutes later with our room cards. I thanked him. He said, "Don't thank me they were sitting there already, I didn't do a thing," Let me take you to the front of the line to check you in now."
On the way up the gangway, we passed about a dozen crew members, only the very last one, said welcome aboard.
We checked the room, they had upgraded us to an ocean view, and we went to get something to eat.
When we returned the cabin girl was there, by our door and said "Is this your room? How did you get this room? You do not belong here! You are not on my list! I said, this is the room they gave us. In any event, we will need a refrigerator for our medications.
She said, "You don't look sick to me! What is wrong with you, are you diabetic? I said no, but both my wife and I have medical problems and a bag of different meds many eed to be kept in cool place. I will have to ask my supervisor." I said, "Also, I would like you to make sure you keep our Ice bucket full too." We never got the frig, or ice, for 2 days.
It was now 5pm, we went in and set down in the room, not feeling very welcome. The phone rings, the lady on the phone said, "Do you want your bags." I said yes. "She said then you better come get them." I said why can't you just bring them to our room." She said, "This is security, your bags are sitting out here on the pier."
We went to the gangway, and the staff did want us to go leave the ship to get them and refused to go get them too. I got upset, and said no way we are leaving without them. He said let me ask my supervisor...I followed him down the gangway. The supervisor said, let them go em, but you better hurry, because we are sailing any minute.
We got down to security and I said to the lady, the ship confiscated our passports, how can we get back in, if we go out, she said do you have your pass cards. I said yes, she said that is all you need.
We went out and the bags were just outside security on dolly. Only our bags were there, they all were tagged with our names and GTR tags too. The porters were sitting on the other side of the hallway on other dollies, the guy we tipped was no where around. Another one offered to help us, but I told him, we had tipped the other guy and were not going to tip again, after all this. He said, he understood. He started to wheel the dolly in to security check point, when I guy in white shirt, pushed him away and said I will take it from here. When we got into the security area. I told him was not going to tip again. He said well I am not going to help you then and you can't use our dolly either. He put everything on the floor and took the dolly and left. We had 3 bags and two cases of water.
Somehow we managed to put through scanners and I was fit to be tied. I had the airline type carry-on bag, put one bag over the handle and the water on the top of roller bag and my wife did the same. We got up to the gangway, where the dozen crew were standing, no one offer to help us get them to the room, or even open the heavy door to the staterooms.
The ship did not sail for another 3 hours, as the check in process was such a mess for a lot of people.
The pier staff said they could not check in the bags, as no stateroom had been assigned timely. But they could call us in the stateroom. The ship blamed the pier staff.
We were exhusted physically and mentally, and slept for most of the next 2 days and rarely left the stateroom. We didn't go the Captain's Welcome either. But went up to the open buffet, about 8 pm to eat. The officer's were comiing up there now too, to eat, after the Captain's welcome.
One of them was behind me in line, and asked how I was enjoying the cruise so far. I said you really don't want to know. he insisted that I tell him, explained he was the manager of customer relations on board, his name was Rolston, as I recall. He spoke with me and my wife and said he was going to look into it.
I only told him about the cabin girl, no ice, no frig, no answer, and we did not feel wanted there. I asked to moved to another area, even if back to the inside cabin we had booked.
The next day he called and said, he had another stateroom for us, with a frig and asked us to come to the pursers desk to get the room keys and check it out.
It was a big balcony on the fan tail, the room was little bigger too. The desk draw would not stay shut...and the shower drain backed up...probably why it was not assigned before. Moreover the soot collected on the fan tail furniture and we had to wipe it down every morning.
I asked to have someone help us move the luggage, but the Purser's staff said everyone was in a meeting, as soon as over would send someone down.
We were almost done packing. The girl room steward shows up with a bucket of ice. "My supervisor said to give you this." My wife said "Take it back, your to late, we are leaving now."
She left, then another guy showed up to help us move, with a hotel dolly.
When we got to new room, the male stewards said, "Is this going to be your room?" I said, yes. He said, "So your the ones!" Apparently, we were one of the topics at the "meeting."
I handed him $50.00 up front and asked him to keep the ice bucket full too." He did, but in 13 days in that room, only made 3 towel animals, my wife really likes them. Never cleaned the balcony.
We wedged a wad of paper in the desk draw...and they had some come an fix the shower drain, I believe it had a reverse valve that was sticking in the open position. I found if you flushed the toilet it would drain.
We book the inside cabin all the time, mainly because the wife get sea and air sick easily. She was in bed for most of the trip, but really liked the balcony and didn't want to move.
Later, I told the Roys, about the check in process and pier experience a week later. He said, would take something off the bill. He took off $70.00 in the end, in Internet charges.
I also filled out a long questionnaire and left this story in the drop box.
Later, I got email from Aam M. Goldstein, President and CEO, blanket type, thanking us for choosing RC and hoped to see us again.
I wrote back all the above to his email, no reply to that or the one in the drop box.
I then worte to RC on its website...no reply to that one either. My neighbor suggested that I should have gotten another free cruise after all we went through and to write them email. She has been on RC many times and never had a bad experience.
i said only way we would take another one is if it were free. We have been on NCL, Carnival, QE2, and Disney, this was the pits on RC.
No lobster night either. The best part of the cruise was the dinning room staff.
Allure of the Seas: Part 1 Trip Report from the Eastern Caribbean
The purpose of this report is to let you know what to expect on the Allure of the Seas, especially on one of our Card Player Cruises poker cruises. I'll start off with details about the ship (restaurants, shows, amenities, etc.) and then go into some of the on board activities offered and some of the shore excursions available. I'll close with some hints on how to make your vacation easier and better and give you some fun facts about the cruise.
The Ship: The Allure of the Seas launched in December 2010 and is the biggest cruise ship in the world, weighing in at 225,000 gross tons. It is a twin to its sister ship the Oasis of the Seas. The Allure is 1,187 feet long and has 16 passenger decks. Occupancy at full capacity is 6,296 guests in its 2,704 staterooms. The ship offers a plethora of activities and features a zipline, carousel, Central Park, ice skating rink, rock climbing wall, more than 20 eating venues, a Broadway theater, an aqua theater, comedy theater, jazz club, full casino,fitness center, Surfrider, miniature golf, jazz club, karaoke lounge, a child and teen program, disco, sports court, duty-free shops, internet cafes, jogging track, and lots of cool public lounges. The Allure offers the latest in technology. If you aren't sure how to find a specific destination, go to any elevator and type in where you are going and the route will light up. You can press a button to find out how busy each of the restaurants is. You swipe your card at each show to confirm your reservations. One nice feature in the cabins is an iPod docking station so feel free to bring your iPod with you.
The Restaurants: The dining choices are manyâ€¦most are free but there also are some pay restaurants for those who really want to be pampered. Please note that there is no need to pay extra for food on a cruise ship since the food in the free venues is plentiful and tasty. The Adagio dining room is open for breakfast, lunch (on sea days), and dinner with a choice of at least three appetizers, soups, and salads each evening as well as at least six entree options and six dessert choices. Don't forgetâ€¦it's all you can eat so if you want the beef and the pasta, you can order both! If you prefer a more casual dinner or prefer to wear shorts or to go casual on formal night, a good alternative dining room is the Windjammer Marketplace. The Windjammer opens nightly at 6:15 and is buffet style with many great food choices and desserts. I eat there for dinner most nights since I prefer casual dining to long, multi-course dinners. The Windjammer is open for breakfast and lunch every day as well.
If you want something even more casual, I highly recommend the Park Cafe for breakfast or lunch (I wish they were open for dinner). Located in Central Park, the Park Cafe breakfast includes a designer bagel bar, lots of fresh fruit, grilled egg sandwiches, hot and cold cereals, and lots of other quick and light food items. The Park Cafe is my favorite lunch spot featuring scrumptious roast beef sandwiches, a salad bar, soup, and lots of desserts. Another good choice for a quick bite is the Cafe Promenade, a 24-hour snack bar with sandwiches and cookies. Sorrentos is a pizza bar where you can grab a slice of four different types of pizza or design your own personal pizza. Johnny Rockets has breakfast for free (there is a small charge for lunch and dinner), as does the Solarium Bistro. Room service is available 24 hours a day and is complimentary except during the hours of midnight to 5am, when a $3.95 service charge applies. The Wipeout Cafe is a great place to grab a burger, hot dog or pizza when you are out at the pool. Looking for a snack? You can grab a yummy hot dog in the Boardwalk Dog House (five types of hot dogs and sausages), a donut at Boardwalk Donuts, or frozen yogurt by the pool. Each of the above venues is complimentary.
As far as the pay restaurants, Giovanni's Table is my personal favorite. The cover charge is $15 for lunch and $20 for dinner but you would have to pay at least three times that much for similar food at home. The service is five-star, as is the food. Beware: there is way too much food if you order every course â€“ appetizer, salad, soup, pasta, entree, and dessert. I recommend dining family style and sharing some of the early courses so you have room for your entree. Chops Grille is a gourmet steak house with wonderful food and plenty of it for $30 per person. Rita's Cantina features Mexican food (the price depends on what night you goâ€¦there is a fiesta two nights during the week with a $20 charge for the party, food and margaritas). Other pay restaurant choices are the Brazilian Steak House Samba Grill ($25), Vintages (an a la carte tapas bar), Izumi ($5 cover charge plus a la carte pricing for sushiâ€¦note I HATED this restaurant on the Oasis so wouldn't consider trying it on the Allure), 150 Central Park ($40 per head or $75 per head with wine pairings), or the Chef's Table ($95 for a wine pairings dinner at a private table hosted by one of the ship's chefs.) If you're in the mood for a snack, the following venues have a small charge: Starbucks, Ice Cream Parlor, The Cupcake Cupboard, or Johnny Rockets.
The Shows: The Allure has six special shows during the week in addition to all the other activities offered. Chicago is the featured Broadway show in the Amber Theater. There is an ice skating show, a standup comedy show, a water show featuring amazing high dive and trampoline acts, a headliner show (the Texas Tenors from America's Got Talent were featured this week), and Blue Planet featuring vocals, energetic dance, and aerial acrobatics. I found the talent on the Allure to be terrific.
The Activities: Obviously we will have a first-class poker room for your pleasure that will open at 9am on sea days and after dinner on port days except in Nassau, when we will open in the afternoon once we sail away. Both live games and tournaments will be offered every day. If you want to take a break from poker, here's a report on some of the ship activities offered throughout the week: trivia, singles get-together, karaoke, ice skating, dance classes, movies, sing-a-longs in the piano bar, bridge, Soduko, jewelry making, fitness classes, seminars, bingo, name that tune, concerts, pool games, parades, scrapbooking classes, Ping pong, basketball, line dancing, wine tasting, and cooking classes.
If you are bringing children or teenagers, they will be busy the entire cruise. They have their own counselors, designated lounges and play rooms, and an arcade, as well as a full menu of activities including scavenger hunts, seminars, face painting, DJ academies, dance lessons, talent shows, ice shows, Dream Works shows, carousel, parties, etc. The Ports: The Eastern Caribbean ports are Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. Some of the shore excursions available through the ship are: Nassau: Stingray snorkeling and beach break, Atlantis Hotel/Casino tour, glass bottom boat, Seaworld Explorer, Paradise Island tour, swim with the dolphins, and the Forts and Pirate Museum tour. St. Thomas: Sail to Christmas and Honeymoon Cove, bike trip, beach excursions, trips to St. John, catamaran snorkel trips, golfing, jet boat sail, power raft snorkeling, island tours, jeep adventures, helmet dive at Coral World, parasailing, scuba diving, hiking, and kayaking St. Maarten: island tour, eco snorkel and beach tour, Rhino Rider adventure, art tour, extreme tour, scuba diving, discover scuba, aquaboat and jeep adventure, butterfly farm, and snuba.
For more information about the excursions, you can go to rccl.com or refer to the excursion booklet in your cabin.Hints to Make Your Vacation Better: If you like to preplan your activities, you should go to the Royal Caribbean website and book reservations at least a week in advance of your cruise.) However, if you don't like to plan in advance, don't despairâ€¦10 minutes before each show, the doors are open to any standby guests and we did not have any problem getting in at the last minute. Book your excursions through the ship. The ship tours are organized and use top-quality operators. You never have to worry about missing the ship either! It is best to arrive at the pier on embarkation day after 2pm when there is virtually no wait to board the ship. If you arrive at noon, you will probably have at least a 30-minute wait to board. Pack your valuables, passport, medicine, reading material, change of clothes, etc. in a carry-on bag since it might take a while to get your luggage delivered to your cabin. Don't overpack. Once you have laid out your clothes for the trip, put at least 1/3 of them back in the closet. Bring sunscreen and a bathing suit. It will be hot! Check in at the poker room on deck three in the conference room once you board the ship to pick up your free gifts and name badge that you will need during the cruise. Liquids can no longer be brought on board in your luggage. This applies to water, soda, and alcohol. The days of bringing your own sodas and waters are gone, they will confiscate your stuff! If you drink a lot of soda or wine, consider buying a package in advance or when you arrive at the ship, Bring a good attitude and a sense of adventure and you'll have a wonderful time!
If you have any questions about this trip or about the Allure of the Seas, please write to me at CardPlayerCruises
My cruise is yet to happen, but I just learned that the fitness center sauna and steam room, which for YEARS have been a standard included feature, are no longer included with the base cruise fare. In order to use those facilities, you now have to pay $30/day or $300 for the duration of the cruise, which represents a 25% increase in the cost of the cruise. This was NOT communicated by the "certified RC reservation specialist" during the booking process and amounts to an airline adding a baggage charge without telling you when you book the ticket! Choose another different cruise line which has more honest, clear communication about fee changes!!!!
We are a family of 4. DH and I are in our early forties and we have a daughter who is 5 and a son who is 4.
I'll try to position this as a critical review of the Royal FOTS with (where applicable) comparisons to recent sailings on Carnival Dream and HAL Eurodam.
Obviously this is based on my personal experience ... your mileage may vary and probably will.
Activities There were an abundance of activities on board ~ almost too many. Granted you don't have to do everything, but we found ourselves rushing from activity to activity and had to miss some due to scheduling conflicts between dinner and night shows. I would not say that it was a relaxing holiday but it was an enjoyable one.
I was happy to see that Royal had some family activities (family disco, family karaoke, family wii etc.). I would have been nice if those activities were also printed in the Adventure ocean compass too.
If I had to make any recommendations to Royal it would be to give more thought to scheduling of events and how those conflict with dinner times and kid's clubtimes.
They can't please everyone though, and I recognize this.
Adventure Ocean My kids were in the 3 to 5 AO club. This was the BIGGEST disappointment of the whole trip.
Perhaps my kids are just mature, but I found the kid's club to be very juvenile. I was really disappointed with the counsellors who appeared to be more babysitters than anything else. They mostly had very heavy accents which my kids found difficult to understand. Not one of them appeared to be enthusiastic, happy, or to love their jobs. On more than one occasion, I appeared to pick up/drop off my kids only to find a counsellor yelling at a child (fortunately not my child!). Despite the events that were posted in the compass, almost every time I arrived, the counsellors were reading a book and children were being lectured to sit quietly and listen. Now, I will admit that my kids came home with small crafts/coloured items, so they were definitely doing other things, but reading a book seemed to be the most frequent activity.
My kids did not LOVE the kid's club and I do not blame them one bit. In comparison to other kid's clubs (Club HAL and Camp Carnival), I found the general decor of the kids clubs to be depressing and not happy or stimulating. My kids went reluctantly only on the assurance that we were not going to leave them for a long time. I felt guilty every time I dropped my kids off. I will note that the counsellors (Chop Suey for example) in the next age group were much better.
In comparison, earlier this year we sailed HAL, and based on our experience, Club HAL was way better, which is surprising for a cruiseline that does not target young families. The counsellors were happy and energetic and very obviously loved their jobs. By day 2, they were greeting children and parents by first name. Yes, it is a smaller ship with fewer young families, but I would guess that they had about 40 kids participating in kid's club.
Most of the parents I spoke to in the waiting area seemed to share my sentiments about Adventure Ocean.
I'll also comment on the "Fisher Price" loot bag the kids received at the end of the cruise. OMG, my kids (4 and 6) outgrew Fisher Price a long time ago. Granted it was better than nothing, but I found the loot bag way too juvenile. When the kids left Club HAL, they received yellow nylon backbag bags, filled with all their crafts, chocolates, pencils, and lots of HAL giveaways. HAL was waaaayyyyy more generous with the give aways at every event and not just the final lootbag.
Service Service was surprisingly good. We had the best Head Waiter we've ever had on a ship. We usually gripe about tipping the Head Waiter, but we actually tipped this guy a little extra. He came to speak with us every night to make sure we were happy and was really good at facilitating our character breakfasts and other requests. Our server (Colleen) was excellent. DH thought she was the best server we'd ever had (my vote goes to Yunis on Eurodam). However, with open seating for breakfast and dinner, the service was less than stellar. The breakfast and lunch waitstaff generally seemed grumpy. On one occasion, we had a breakfast waiter who was always grumpy when dealing with us (and no – we are not grumpy people) .... yet he had one of his dinner families seated right next to us ... and as he turned to deal with them, he would always put on his happy face/voice. IT was clear to us, that his gratuity was not based on how he dealt with us ... and so he certainly was not giving his best efforts for us. We give the overall edge for service to HAL. We had great service on HAL, everywhere by everyone.
Nut Allergies Like most ships, Royal does a horrible job with allergies, specifically peanut allergies. For example, last year when we sailed on Grandeur,, I had an allergic reaction to the Apple Parcels which are offered on a sea day lunch menu. I alerted the wait staff on Grandeur and followed up with a complaint to Royal to advise them that the description on the menu should indicate the presence of nuts in the dessert. No action was taken and the Apple parcels still appear on the menu with no flag as to the item containing almonds. DH ordered one for our son for dessert, and fortunately, I stopped him. My son has tree nut and peanut allergies.
The entire chocolate breakfast (served at both character breakfasts) was OFF LIMITS for him. When the waiter dropped the plate of baked goods on the table, he said, "not for anyone with nut allergies" and then I called him back to elaborate. He then sent the Head Wait who explained that Royal Chocolate product has "may contain nuts" on the label, so they consider EVERY chocolate item to contain nuts. If that is the case, this should be stated on the menu. Also, on the first night after we advised both our waiter and the Head waiter of my son's nut allergies, neither advised us of this "all chocolates contain nuts" warning. I know it is just Royal protecting their own butt. It would have been nice if I knew the entire chocolate menu contained or could contain nuts, and then I would not have read those items to him. Unfortunately, it was only after I got my son all excited about the chocolate banana bread, that I had to tell him that he could not have it. My little guy is a TROUPER though and does an amazing job of being told that he can't eat something because of his peanut allergies. Now, we generally, don't follow the "may contain" as my son has a consumption allergy so we generally just specifically avoid anything that expressly contains nuts. Nevertheless, we erred on the side of caution. I offer this as a "heads up" for any families sailing with Nut Allergic children. Next time, I'm bringing chocolate chips from home so my son can enjoy chocolate chip pancakes. But I would think it would not be toooo much effort for Royal to source and reserve some nut-free chocolate for those patrons that specifically request it.
Characters The kids loved the parades and the characters. I wish there were more though. From Shrek, we had Shrek, Fiona and Puss N Boots. From Madagascar, we had Alex, Gloria, and King Julian. My kids LOVE the penguins, and sadly they were not there (except in the video shown at the sail away party OR the inflatable ones in the dreamworks parade). (Despite seeing them on the FOTS videos on you tube). After booking the Kung Fu Panda package (more on this later).... we were surprised to see only 1 character – Po. That was a bit of a letdown. I know some of the characters were small (but I can't help but think Disney would have found a way to do it). I would think that they could have at least had Tigress. We were also looking forward to seeing Hiccup and Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon, but they had just left for Oasis. I told my daughter that Hiccup and Astrid got married and they went on another cruise on their honeymoon, and she was happy with this explanation ;-)
I can't understand why they don't have all costumes on all ships. The only other thing was that we saw a photo op with Shrek and stood in line to meet him. Just as we got to the front of the line, they subbed out Shrek with Puss n Boots. My kids were really disappointed especially my son who was scared of Puss n Boots.
Kung Fu Panda Package (Pandamonium) I think we were on the last sailing of the Pandamonium Package ... but I will offer this for anyone who buys a similar package in the future. Our package was to contain 2 soda packages, 2 cupcakes, 1 photo, and 1 exclusive meet and greet, and 1 pets at sea stuffed animal. Having asked here about people who'd booked the Pandamonium Package, I had read about others who had trouble getting Royal to follow-through on the package; some waiting as long as mid-cruise before it was sorted out. So, I was determined to act quickly, and started asking about my coupons as soon as we boarded. Of course, we had problems too.
The "botch-up" might be rooted in the fact that we booked the Pandamonium Package on our initial cabin and then subsequently upgraded to a new cabin a few weeks prior to sailing. Our TA assured me (pre- and post trip) that she had verified with Royal that we would not lose the panda package with our upgrade. As luck would have it, the panda package did not make it to our reservation. On the first day, I had to really chase down our coupons, which we finally did receive just before midnight on the first day. Sonja at Guest Relations was excellent and took a personal interest in our plight.
We also missed the exclusive meet and greet with Po. It was supposed to happen on Day 5 at 5PM and while I knew this on Day 1, we forgot by Day 5. Invitations like those that are issued for the Meet & Greet would have been a nice and well-appreciated reminder.
Despite getting and using our coupons, we still got billed for everything that should have been included for free with our package. On the debarkation day, DH had to stand in line to get credited for all those charges. When Royal does credits, they have to contact the "head' of that department to do the credit. When we left the ship, we had still not been credited for the pet at sea (stuffed animal), as that needed to be done by the kid's club manager, and she was still asleep.
Dining Room (BLD) We generally prefer to have all our meals in the MDR. Breakfast service was horribly slow. They now have a "breakfast buffet" self-service in the MDR. I think Royal wants to push people towards self-selection for breakfast. By the end of the cruise, we were eating breakfast in the Windjammer. The service was comparable and the food was a lot faster.
We were really disappointed by the food quality. Having just come off HAL, I think HAL food was better. The options on the kid's menu were great, and my kids were always pleased. Presentation for our meals was lacking (okay, food does not have to look good to taste good). But I found the food to be mediocre at best. The food wasn't bad per se; but we were certainly not wowed. Perhaps our tastes are becoming more discriminating as we age and we are just harder to please, not sure. I know DH generally orders 2 to 3 desserts if there is something he really likes, he will ask for more. There was not a single dessert that wowed him on this cruise.
I finally tried the vidallia onion tart that everyone raves about. It was not to my liking, but I'm not a fan of anything quiche-y or too egg-y. I was very disappointed that I did not get to finally try the lab shank. I'd been salivating over this ever since a table-mate ordered it on Grandeur last fall. Unfortunately, the lab shanks did not make it to the dock in time and we sailed without them (seriously.). So, the menu item was subbed with beef tenderloin, which although not terribly flavourfull was cooked perfectly. I found the ship did a very good job of cooking steaks to order. I could not get medium-rare on Carnival as it was supposedly against their policy (or it was against my waiters' policy). I found if anything, Royal errs on the side of rare, but I will definitely take an under-cooked steak over an over-cooked one.
Wind-Jammer: The food was "okay". We're not huge pork eaters, and I found some days, there were mostly pork options. I thought this was poor-planning on Royal's part. I would assume that a fair number of passengers do not eat pork for religious reasons, and I found the pork-heavy menus somewhat exclusionary.
At breakfast, I found the "number" system for the omelettes, somewhat chaotic. I thought Carnival did a much better job with the buffet options on Carnival Dream especially their omelette station. They also had the noodle and pasta stations for lunch which were excellent options when one could not dine at the MDR.
Cupcake Cupboard I was very disappointed with the cupcakes. I expected stellar cupcakes. Having taken the Michael's cake decorating classes, I could churn out cupcakes of comparable decorating quality. But the cake/icing quality was really poor. They were extremely sweet and the cupcakes were lacking in any flavour. My kids each took a bite of theirs and didn't want any more (and they love cupcakes!). Good thing they were free! I'm just an average home baker, but I'd bet I could outsell the Cupcake Cupboard in a bake sale.
Lakeland Airport/Niagara International We generally fly Southwest out of BUF to MCO or FLL (depending on the cruise). This flight we flew Direct Air out of Niagara Falls, NY to Lakeland, Florida. The flight was a lot cheaper so I cannot complain about that. However, we were nickel and dimed ... had to pay for every checked bag (hence numerous people trying to stuff their too large carryons into the overhead bins). Also, no free soft drinks or snacks. But in the end, it was still cheaper. This was our first time flying out of a regional airport. I have to say that the lack of hustle/bustle was nice. Unfortunately, TSA had too much time on their hands and checked (should I say ransacked?) every bag. We had 4/4 bags checked on the way in and 4/4 bags checked on the way out. In all my flights out of BUF/MCO/FLL, I've only ever had 1 bagged randomly checked. TSA left many of my outer pockets open/unzipped and things were falling out as our bags were retrieved from the carousel. They also went through our stuff, and took things (like liquids) out of the poly bags, without re-zipping the bags. They even opened a bottle of pain meds without properly re-sealing the bottle, and the pills went everywhere. I was NOT happy about this. For this reason alone, I'd be more inclined to fly out of a major airport next time.
Despite the above, we did have an amazing holiday. As we continue to evaluate all the cruiselines trying to pick which one is right for us ....we're trying to be critical in our assessment .... I've mainly posted my criticisms here to benefit others who use the same criteria to judge a cruise.
I'm not 100% sure that we would sale Freedom again .... but if we did, these experiences will qualify our expectations. Given that I found a $25 casino chip in my dryer .... I'm pretty sure I'll be sailing Royal again in order to redeem it! Besides, we made Platinum this cruise, so that is a good thing!
Like I said above, this reflects our experience, and the experiences of others may vary. I'd be happy to answer any questions. You can find me here mostly on the Chit Chat board at Cruisemates or PM me through this site.