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:Caribbean, Canada, Transatlantic
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Seniors.
Regions:Bermuda, Bahamas, Eastern Caribbean
Good for: Families. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean
Good for: Families. Seniors. Group.
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, Eastbound Transatlantic
Good for: Children`s Programs. Families. Teens.
Good for: Teens. Group. Families.
Regions:Eastern Mediterranean, Caribbean, Eastbound Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Families. Overall Service.
Regions:Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean
Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.
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: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: Families. Overall Service. Children`s Programs.
Regions:UK, Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda
Good for: Families. Group. Disabled Travelers.
Regions:Bahamas, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Families. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Western Caribbean, Southern Caribbean
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Western Mediterranean, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Singapore, Malaysia, Phuket & Port Kelang,
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Hawaii, Alaska, South Pacific
Good for: Families. Group. Overall Service.
Regions:Toyko To Taipei, Australia, Asia
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
We sailed on the Allure August 28th with a 3 adults and an 8 year old child. We arrived a day early and stayed at the Courtyard in Dania Beach. They have free shuttle service from the airport (FLL) to the hotel and free shuttle service to the port (3 drop off times of 10 am 11 am and 12 pm.) The Shuttle to the hotel was approximately 10 minutes and the shuttle to the airport was the same, extremely easy.
Embarkation was smooth. We arrived around 12:10 and were on the ship by 12:30. RCL has the embarkation process down to a science. As you arrive you go through metal detectors and then you are ushered to separate lanes depending on what deck you're on. Once at the counter they take your sail and sign paperwork, your credit card and a picture. Easy easy easy. Then you proceed to the escalators, guests with children are on one side and the rest on the other. The purpose for this is to issue the kids their bracelets for their Evacuation station info, etc.
Once you walk into the ship you are onDeck 5, which is the promenade and it is absolutely beautiful. We walked around that deck and took some pictures and then decided to go eat. We ended up at the Windjammer Marketplace, which is the Buffet, on deck 16. There was a variety of food and each one of us found things we liked. The place was crowded and it took a little time to find a seat but that was expected, it was the first day. After lunch we went to our rooms. We had a Central Park view on Deck 10, which was very nice but we missed seeing the ocean, so therefore next time it will be an ocean view balcony. There was a flat screen tv which was interactive, where you can check your account and make reservations. You can also see your calendar for the week. The bed was near the balcony and it was pretty comfortable and roomy. My daughter was on Deck 9 with just a window, it seemed that her room was just roomier. Our bags didn't arrive until later so we explored the ship some more, until the drill, which occurred right before we sailed away. It lasted no more than 15 minutes and they seemed to cram people into various venues.
We enjoyed a sail away character party, which was at the Aqua Theater on the Boardwalk on the back of the ship. It was nice and my grandson seemed to enjoy it.
We decided to do the my-time dining and I had made most of the reservations on-line before we sailed. On the days we did not have reservations, all I did was call the reservation number and requested a certain time and it was available. I also made most of the shows reservations on line and there wasn't ever a problem. We did arrive early and we did get good seats. There was always a line for people without reservations and who managed to be able to see the show the only thing was that they did not have a pick of their seats they would just have to find whatever was available. We enjoyed Chicago and it was almost like a Broadway production but a shorter version. The signing was good. OceanAria was excellent, the acrobats and the divers were really good! We saw two shows on ice and they were also good (How to Train your Dragon and Monopoly.) I didn't get to see Blue Planet but my daughter said it was amazing with great music!
We are not early risers so we only made it to breakfast once, we ordered room service the other times or we just got up and went to lunch. We did eat at Park CafÃ©, which is located in Central Park. They have, make your own salads, paninis to order, roast beef sandwiches, fruit cups, already made chicken, egg and tuna sandwiches and desserts. We enjoyed the roast beef and the make your own salads. We also had pizza at Sorrento's and the pizza was pretty good.
They had a couple of parades, Zumba classes, late night movies at the Aqua Theater (popcorn is provided for free), a 3D movie, (maybe 2)Bingo, karaoke, slot, blackjack and poker tournaments, character appearances, toning classes, spa specials, liquor specials, etc.
My DH did the flowrider and the zip line, I only did the zip line. For the zip line remember to have socks and sneakers. We rode the carousel and had hotdogs and ice cream on the Boardwalk. My grandson climbed the rock wall.
In Labadee ( R.C. private Island) we walked to the beach and had a really nice time. The water was clear and warm. When we arrived around 11 am there were chairs available so it wasn't a problem. They provided a BBQ lunch, which consisted of burgers, hotdogs, ribs, they had a salad station, fruit station and cold salads. We saw people on the zip line, which looked pretty amazing and we could see the roller coaster from where we were. That was an additional cost!
We briefly got off the ship in Falmouth just to see it. We did a little shopping and you can bargain with them. The port is still under construction but it was still a nice area. We did not go outside the fenced in area. It was so hot we quickly got back unto the ship.
My grandson spent the rest of the day in the H2O zone (kids pool and water toys) . His mother signed him up with the Adventure Ocean club, which was the kids club (free, except on sea days when they charged $7.95 for lunch) and he had a blast he wanted to be there all the time. He also enjoyed the arcade which was quite large and had some pretty decent and modern games.
In Cozumel the ship docked at the International Pier, which is a few miles from downtown. ($7.00 by taxi to downtown each way) We decided to go to the beach and asked one of the drivers which was less rocky and nice and he told us Paradise Beach he also stated it was free. Took a taxi to Paradise Beach $13.00 for the 4 of us. Once there, we paid for beach chairs ($2.00), which included access to beach, use of pool and bathroom with changing rooms. We also had to pay a $10 cover charge for each one of us, which we could use for drinks and food. If we wanted to use the water toys it would be an additional $12.00. Since we were already there we opted to pay for the chairs and the cover charge. It was a nice beach, they kept the grounds immaculate the only drawback was the rocky portion of the water as you entered it. So bring water shoes they help a lot on any beach or pool. The rocks were just lumpy and slippery, but once you past that point it was good. The food was actually good and the waiters were nice and always asking if we were ok or if we needed anything. We arrived there at approximately 10:00 am by the time we left at around 2:00 pm the beach and the pool were pretty crowded. It was worth it, but I think they should just tell you about what you have to pay instead of saying "it's free."
On sea days the pools were very crowded and chairs did become scarce, except in the adult only Solarium (16 and over) which was beautiful .
The room attendant was very pleasant and always kept our room tidy. The wait staff were also pleasant and remembered our preferences, which was nice.
We hung out at Dazzles, one of the night-clubs, and the band "Frontliners" were amazing. They had theme nights and they took requests. There was also Boleros, which played Latin music. And a good selection of beers can be found at the Bow and Stern Pub. The Rising Tide Bar was cool, it would take off every 15 minutes from Deck 5 to Deck 8.
The picture gallery is interactive, you put your sail-sign card and you can see all your pictures. The also have the prints in binders and the binders are filed by numbers, the number that is assigned to you appears on your sail-sign card.
Debarkation was easy as well. We had an 11:25 am flight to catch and we were at the airport by 9:30 a.m. There was a glitch with one of the machines on the ship so there was a little delay getting off the ship but other than that we found our luggage, got on the customs line, which moved pretty fast and we were out of there in approximately 20 minutes.
Over all the ship is beautiful and enormous there are plenty of things to do and plenty of time just to relax and enjoy the ship. The ship is so big you don't even feel the movement as you're sailing on the ocean. If you didn't know any better, you would think you were at a hotel instead of a ship!!
Cruise started in Malaga with confusion at the baggage book-in spot being opposite the cruise terminal. No sign of Royal Caribbean in sight, only the name of another ship also docked. After walking up and down we were told that it was the baggage book-in for RCL as well.
As Platinum members we were on the ship quickly, but our room was not ready until 14h00. Went to the Windjammer and what a commotion and noise, children running all over the place and apparently the ship was booked mostly by Spanish speaking passengers. They were communicating to one another from the one side of the restaurant to the other.
The food on this cruise was the worst we ever had on a RCL cruise and it was our 7th. The meat in the Windjammer was constantly tough and the variety in the main dining room was poor.
The shows were also not up to standard and one evening it was mainly in Spanish. Our previous cruise was from Sydney to Nieu Zealand and we had the most wonderful entertainers, but here it was really not worth bothering to go. Our 2nd seating inthe dining room was 21h30 which is very late, normally it is 21h00, but I presume it is because of the my time dining. By the time we were served our last course it was 23.30.
One evening about 18h00 when we wanted to have a drink in the Viking Crown Lounge we were told it is closed for a private party! As far as I know are all the lounges open for everybody. I was also amazed that there are such a lot of lounges and bars for smokers!
The get together for platinum members were in the morning of the day we entered Valencia. We were told that dress code was smart casual, no jeans etc. Our excursion was one hour later, do they really think that we must dress up twice in one morning? Why not have it while we have a day at sea?
Disembarkation was a nightmare. We had to be in the main dining room as platinum members by 7h00 where we were supposed to be served a continental breakfast. When we came there the tables were empty and a young man was standing there greeting us. He tried several times to get people to bring some food and in the end of the day they had to bring food from the lower dining room. Most of the buns, bread, rolls etc were sweet, covered with some icing or sweet dough. In the end he told us that if we do not leave for the terminal, we will be between all the other passengers who disembark later.
We had red tags numbered 1. On the conveyer belt only bags with green tags came out. A few people were standing around waiting for their red tags. I later talked to one of the ladies helping passengers and se told me that I must give it 10 min. then she will go and look at the back. One hour later we were still standing there looking all over the place, no luggage. In the end it appeared that our red tags were put with the orange tags because of the small diferrence in colour, apart from the fact that red was written on the tag if the person handling the baggage was colour blind!
This is really a trip I want to forget and I can really see that RCL is cutting down on costs. The vouchers being given are always for either the casino or spa or you must buy one to get one free. If RCL do step up their act drastically, I am sure that they will loose good and faithful customers.
The good - The ship is beautiful,the shows are greatand most of the staff are wonderful.
The bad- food was fair to poor, speciality restaurants at extra cost only passable,the crowds at times were unbareable. The some staff at the spa were only going through the motions, the person giving me a massage left the room for five minutes in the middle of my treatment without an explaination. The was always litter from the small restaurants on the Boardwalk and the Royal Promenade on the deck or floor. The ship is just to big.The Crown and Anchor Society reps were never available, to busy selling futher cruises.
My mother-in-law purchased a cruise vacation for 7 family members, spanning 4 generations (4 of whom include veterans). We drove 6 hours from Tampa to Miami to catch the Majesty of the Seas for a cruise from 12/13/2010 to 12/17/2010. Both the deposit and remainder of the balance were paid ahead of schedule. This was her first experience with Royal Caribbean, whom she booked with on a referral. Myself, my fiance, and his 7 year old son had never been on a cruise, and we were so excited and had been looking forward to this trip for months. We had issues with our GPS, and were running behind schedule, but we finally arrived at the dock at 4:40, and the departure time was 5pm. We were already checked in (we had done so 2 days before online) and had our luggage tags on our bags. Our documentation failed to stress that if we were not at the port a minimum of 1 hour before departure, we would not be allowed on the ship.
The security supervisor explained this regulation, and without much outward sympathy suggested we call customer service. In a stateof disbelief that they could do nothing to help us, we got back in the car and drove another 6 hours back home, not getting in the door until midnight. When my mother-in -law called customer service the next day, she was told that not only was she not eligible for a refund, she also was not eligible for a credit to use towards a future cruise. The only thing she can do apparently, is call for a refund of the taxes she paid, once the ship docks back in Miami on the 17th.
The customer service agent would not refer her to a supervisor, even though she requested to speak with one. I have worked in customer service for over 10 years, and I have never heard of such a shocking lack of empathy from a company, especially around the holidays, and towards a family of veterans. We were not looking for a refund of the more than $2,000 she spent, we were asking for credit with the company to be used for a future trip. I do not believe it is right that Royal Caribbean should be allowed to keep so much money without providing any services, and such appalling customer service.
Neglecting to inform the customer of the importance of the deadline for boarding is one thing, but then refusing to work with that customer to rectify the situation by at least honoring the money they have spent is reprehensible.
One thing i would like to state first i had a lovely holiday wich id saved 4yrs for. what i was upset about was the lack of childrens activitys for my 2yr old. not at any point did i get told that kids have to be 3yrs for kids clubs and they did not have any ice skating shoes for his size. the also have no baby changing facilitys. nore did they have any way of heating my babys bottle during the night in wich he wakes up 4 times, so i had to pay for room service to do it in wich they took 45 mins 1 night. i had a good time but my poor baby had nothink to do at all i would warn people with kids under 2 to be carfull also he did not fit in the travel cot as it was so small.
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.
Second time in a year,on ROTS it was her 500th sailing. Great crew and staff all very friendly and helpful,maybe because of Capt. Lis Lauritzen a female a first for me.
Main Dinning room had some great table mates we had some good laughs Food very good and HOT! wait staff a 10. Cabin stewart awesome. Customer service never in all my 47 cruises did I ever encounter a line there,they must be doing some right. To bad ROTS is leaving end of April. Will have the "jewel" next season. Smooth sailing
The ship seemed even larger than advertised. It was our 13th cruise and we sincerely enjoyed the cruise. The entertainment(there were several venues) was fantastic!! We loved the Central Park area.
The only downsides were: The balcony room over the Boardwalk area seemed a littl small (compared to regular rooms on previous cruises) and we didn't especially like the "My Time Dining" which was all that was available when we booked. But, I would still highly recommend the cruise to anyone.