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Mark Weber

Age: 62

Occupation:Retired Engineer

Number of Cruises: 9

Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean

Ship: Allure Of The Seas

Sailing Date: 2011-01-9

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

This was my first cruise on Royal Caribbean and it lived up to my expectations. Of course, if you don’t expect too much, you will have a better time. However, for some people, complaining is a good time. We went with three other couples. The ship was clean and unscathed. Everything was in pristine condition. The crew kept it that way. It was decorated nicely, nothing opulent. The ship rocked very little, one of the most stable ships you will find. Central Park was a good place to get away from the crowds and the kids. The Solarium was a good place to get away from the kids. The Boardwalk was a good place to find the kids.

The food - always the centerpiece of any cruise, was okay. Not gourmet, but adequate. The main dining room: The bread was good. The desserts were not worth the calories. Personally, I like simple desserts but I could not find any layer cake, non-diet chocolate chip cookies, or apple pie anywhere on the ship (except at dinner one night and at Johnny Rockets). And those apples pies were not even as good as Mrs. Smith’s. The closest you will get to layer cake is the cupcake shop, for a price. Breakfast in the main dining room was not that thrilling. The OJ was good, the cinnamon danish was good, but the pancakes were tasteless, the eggs were always over-salted, and the toast was a joke. How can you ruin white bread toast! The toast was always cold to lukewarm and the crust was like concrete. The Buffet was okay. If you wonder around long enough, you can find something you like to eat. The burgers there and at the other venues were fine as a fall back. The pizza at Sorrento’s was okay if you are hungry but not something to seek out. The Park Café in Central Park was good for breakfast and lunch, and quiet. Johnny Rockets: It was nice to have unlimited fries and onion rings. Their tuna sandwich is good. You have a choice of breads and condiments. The milkshakes were not good at all. They tasted like fast food milkshakes, not the real thing. But for $5 a meal, it was still a good deal. We enjoyed the specialty restaurants we went to, Chops Grill and Giovanni’s Table. They are a good deal compared to what it would cost on land.

The standard rooms have barely enough storage for a one-week cruise. The closet doors are too large for the closet because they also cover the one set of usable shelves next to it. You have to constantly slide the doors from one side to the other to get at your clothes. There is a double bar for two thirds of the closet and a single bar for one-third. Big mistake. The double bars are too close together so that any men’s clothes will either drape along the closet floor or drape along the bottom bar. Women’s clothes are not that long and seem to hang okay. Therefore the men have to use the smaller single bar and share that with any dresses your wife brings and the bathrobes that come with the room. It really gets cramped in there. There are also two drawers in the desk that can be used for clothes storage. That’s it. There are some really small shelves with doors on one side of the desk but they can only hold cans or shoehorns or razors or other small articles. The 32” LCD TV is nice. The lighting in the room is bright. The air conditioning worked great. The rooms were quiet, free from squeaks like on a lot of other ships. But if your room does have a squeak, the maintenance people will jump to fix it. The mini suites, that are really one and a half rooms, come with walk in closets that are sweet. You can actually exhale and not hit the walls with your belly. The bathrooms aren’t bad. The circular clamshell shower doors works well and provide plenty of room to maneuver. The hot water was hot. The cold water was hot too, actually just tepid, which makes sense because the water pipes travel through the ship at ambient temperature. They keep the bathroom stocked with toilet paper but not tissues. So we always had to get more off the cart in the hallway or from the cabin steward. On the last day on the ship, they don’t restock your bathroom. I guess they are afraid you will take your unused toilet paper home. Believe me; I’ve seen better toilet paper in airport bathrooms. You do not want to take their toilet paper home. The towels are large and fluffy – very nice – THESE are worth … never mind.

For on-board activities, my wife and a couple of our friends did the Zip Line. It’s like a 7 second trip from the stern of the ship, where the Flow-Rider is, across the boardwalk below, to the end. It’s scary to take that last step off the launching platform, but everyone enjoyed the trip. Speaking of the Flow-Rider, we watched others do it. You go 2 at a time, with instructors off to the sides to help you before they let go. Most people could actually surf for a while. We also did the trivia contests. The prizes for the winning team were not that great. No t-shirts or mugs. But if you must have them, as the week went on shirts and caps in the gift shop got cheaper. We actually came home with very few items to junk up our house with. Just as well. The production shows were excellent and innovative. Just hope your headliner doesn’t miss the boat like ours did because the replacement could be the worst act you have ever seen on a ship. So if El Gaucho is ever your headliner, run, do not walk, to the nearest exit. The aqua show, OceanAria, featured pantomime comedy, diving and trampoline acrobatics. Great for kids, not quite Cirque du Soleil for adults. The Broadway show, Chicago, was great – I hear, I slept through it. That’s what happens when the shows start at 10:00 – 11:00 at night. The Blue Planet acrobatic and video show was so innovative and fun, it was worth seeing twice. Very much Cirque du Soleil quality. The Ice Show was colorful if not technically great. A lot of falls by the performers, but it is a small rink and the ice got chopped up fast. I think the ice was not cold enough as you could see puddles of water. If you want to see these shows on YOUR schedule, you better sign up from home, early. If you wait till just before the ship leaves, you will find that available times are limited. Once on the ship, count on waiting on line outside the theater to see if any seats are available. The internet speed was the fastest I’ve seen on a cruise ship. It was very usable for browsing the internet, not frustrating at all. Wireless access points are all over the ship. You can buy the largest Internet package (500 minutes) and split it between two users and still have plenty of time for all your emails and surfing. If you’re a Gold or higher Crown & Anchor member, you get discount coupons for this too so the price ($150) will be even lower.

In St. Maarten, we did the 12-meter America’s Cup Sailing Regatta. Fantastically fun. One of the best ship excursions offered anywhere. Everyone worked on the sailboat. All who signed up for this excursion from our ship were divided into 2 groups. We crewed Canada II and raced against Stars and Stripes. We were “grinders.” That is, we cranked the winches to wind or unwind the rope/line controlling the primary sail. It took four of us at a time to do this. You had to be in shape. Remember, these are racing sailboats. There were also 2 more people on the mainsail winch. There were non-physical jobs available for those who couldn’t handle the winches. We won. We also visited Magens Bay Beach in St. Thomas. It was a nice beach, but just a beach. Boring. No fish in the water either. You could see your feet though. You could always wiggle your toes for entertainment.

The check-in was painless and fast. It was helped by the fact I immediately became a Platinum Level member of the RCI Crown & Anchor Society Loyalty Program from my previous cruises on Celebrity, without having to take one RCI cruise. Actually, the worst and longest part of check in was going through the security checkpoint to get into the cruise terminal facilities. Disembarking using the $20 per person valet service was priceless. We left our bags outside the room as usual the night before. You don’t see them again till the baggage carousel at the destination airport. It worked. No lugging baggage off the ship, or trying to find your bags again in the cruise terminal or carrying them through customs. And ours were the first bags off the airplane too. However, everyone in our party was double billed for this service. We caught it just before exiting the ship and one of the ship’s disembarkation guides personally went and had the adjustment done to our account ahead of all the other people waiting at the customer service desk so our account was squared away upon exiting the ship. None of our friends noticed the double billing till we were all standing and waiting for cabs outside the terminal. They notified RCI when they got home and an adjustment was made without problem. I guess you should check your bill upon waking instead of waiting till you exit the room where the bill is waiting on the other side of the door. A lot of the food workers on the ship don’t seem too happy to be there, especially when you order a soda from them and have prepaid for it with the unlimited soda card. Now remember, you also included a tip when you paid for this soda card. But that doesn’t translate to the person giving you the soda. They act like you stiffed them. You would think that taking a cruise during the second week of January would exempt you from school-aged kids. Nope. It’s summer vacation time in South America. But let’s face it, RCI is a family oriented ship. Want mainly adults, take Celebrity. One pleasant surprise was that our 5-watt GMRS walkie-talkies that we brought on board worked beautifully. We had intended to rent the heavily advertised Ipod option to keep in touch with each other on board but that offering was abruptly canceled by RCI at the last minute. During use of our walkie-talkies, we encountered no interference from anyone else and they always seemed to work well wherever we were on the ship. This was probably due to the open-air design of the ship’s middle. We were always able to contact our friends on-board and make last-minute arrangements. This also helped finding each other in the theaters. The cost for our one-week cruise was higher than you would think is normal for this cruise line, but the ship was brand new and the Allure is billed as a destination in itself with all the features it encompasses. And you could always say that you were on the largest passenger vessel ever made. For some of our friends, this was enough of an enticement to pay the freight. For us, it was the friends that made the cruise. So if you’re alone, make friends with your dinner mates. As much as this ship offers in entertainment, it’s no substitute for being with friends.

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