People on Cruise Critic were very helpful in answering my questions before last week’s cruise, so I’m posting a brief recap (sorry, no pics) in case the info will be helpful to someone else. My 31-year-old daughter and I were on the Jan. 13 Allure of the Seas cruise from Miami, traveling to St. Maarten, San Juan and Labadee. We figured out that this was our eighth cruise – we’ve done four Disney cruises, one previous RCI cruise together, one Carnival cruise together, and she did another RCI cruise while I did another Carnival one.
Precruise: We flew into Fort Lauderdale (much cheaper airfare) and took an Uber to Miami. Spent the precruise evening in Wynwood, checking out Wynwood Walls graffiti art, craft cocktails at Beaker & Gray, and then outdoor drinks and food truck food at Wynwood Yard (which is moving this spring to a new location). Great atmosphere for enjoying nice Miami weather.
Embarkation: Super easy, thanks to the staff with the iPads – no waiting in line at counters. The photos we submitted online were accepted – woo hoo! We were onboard shortly after 11.
Stateroom: We had an outside-view stateroom, #9503 on deck 9, starboard. Nice big window, plenty of storage space, although my daughter’s shoes did overflow the closet. Our air conditioning worked very well, and we never even turned it to max.
Dinners: We ate all our dinners in the main dining room and were pleased with most meals. LOVED the warm chocolate cookie and ice cream dessert, which was more like a lava cake and very filling. Great opportunity for my daughter to try escargot at no risk, and she liked it. All our pre-cruise paperwork showed our requested late seating for dinner, but our seapass cards indicated my-time dining. After the first night, they were able to switch us to late seating, and we dined with a very nice couple each night after that. Our table was on Deck 4, the same as the casino. The restaurant itself did not smell of smoke from the casino, but the outside waiting area did.
Other meals: Embarkation day was the only time we ate in the Windjammer. Our stateroom was forward, and we hung out by the main or beach pool during sea days, so I tended to eat breakfast/lunch in the solarium or Park Café. We had room-service coffee most mornings and continental breakfast on a few. We loved Sorrento’s pizza – nice and cheesy! On the last morning, we had a late flight and opted for the Promenade Café, which stayed open the latest; we were disappointed by the menu of coffee and a just a few pastries.
Pools: We never had a problem finding two lounge chairs mid-morning, although sometimes we were farther from the pool than others. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the main pool was freshwater. Lots of people in the pools; we laughed at the signs stating the capacity, since way more people than that were usually in the water. We had fabulous sunny weather on the three sea days. I love hot tubs but only went in twice; the temperatures were more lukewarm than hot.
Entertainment: We loved Mama Mia (got the Boleros bartender to fill my RCI-provided mug with rum and Coke so I had enough to last until intermission, then popped back out to Boleros for a refill and got back before the second half started). Impressed by Oceanaria (very windy; glad we had sweaters). Enjoyed the comedians. Quest – a fun time, as always. Other evenings after dinner, we went to karaoke several times (yeah, we are the gutless lurkers, enjoying the efforts of others who are brave or talented enough to sing). One night (the night of the warm chocolate cookie, I think) we were too full and tired and went to bed after dinner.
Drinks: We had the deluxe beverage package, and it was definitely worthwhile for us (we paid $42 per person per day plus gratuity; I think I booked, canceled and rebooked three or four times as the price changed), considering alcoholic drinks spread throughout the day as well as bottled water and an occasional soda. We usually tipped an extra dollar a drink in cash when we ordered; we found servers to be attentive and rarely had to sign a paper slip. After the first night, our assistant waiter at dinner always brought us each a second glass of wine when the first one was getting low – no prompting needed. I appreciated this since on my last cruise, on Carnival, I never was able to get a second glass with dinner. We never were asked to sign paper slips at dinner, so I made sure to tip extra, based on all those glasses of wine, on the last night (in addition to the auto gratuities). On our last night, our tablemates generously ordered a bottle of wine for the table, and we appreciated the opportunity to try a wine that was only available by the bottle.
Bars: We had at least one drink in most of the bars on the ship (hmmm, what does this say about us?). Enjoyed martinis (chocolate martini, mmmm) at the Champagne Bar, drinks during trivia at the Schooner Bar (we knew it as the bar that we tended to leave by those odd back stairs that go down to deck 5), drinks during karaoke at On Air, sitting outdoors in the evening without wind at the Central Park bars (loved the atmosphere of Central Park), margaritas and mojitos at Sabor, etc. We brought a travel cribbage set and often played while having drinks before dinner. We “rode” the Rising Tide Bar once – cute gimmick.
The large group: There had been some Cruise Critic discussion ahead of time about the large group (a Jewish music festival) that had reportedly booked about a fourth of the staterooms and whether this might disrupt our onboard experience. I did not notice any disruption or lack of venues available for us non-group cruisers. The Wipe Out Café served kosher but was open to everyone, and I enjoyed my kosher French fries. One night, two of the festival’s professional singers sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” during karaoke, and their voices were amazing – a nice bonus for those of us who were not attending the festival.
Ports: In St. Maarten, we took a speedboat tour with Captain Bob (Souaglia tours, see my review https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2626289-loved-captain-bobs-boat-tour/?tab=comments#comment-56610055) and loved it! It was great to see a lot of the island without being in a van, plus fun snorkeling. In San Juan, we did a food tour with Flavors of San Juan – also a fun way to see some of the sights of Old San Juan while enjoying lots of local dishes. We were very full by the time we got back on the ship (but that didn’t stop us from getting those kosher fries and a few beers while we watched flowrider activity). At Labadee, we weren’t sure where to go, so we told a chair attendant we wanted loungers in the sun and he carried them over for us. We enjoyed having more space – loungers are VERY close together around the ship’s pools. I don’t know which beach we were at, but the water was wonderful, with a sandy bottom. The zipline went above us.
Disembarkation: Also pretty easy, especially the facial recognition processing – no need to get out our passports. There was a separate line for people with birth certificates; not sure how things went over there. Outside of Terminal A, it was difficult getting through the mob of people down to where SAS Transportation was picking us up. Too many people were standing wherever they wanted, without leaving room for others to walk down the sidewalk. Be conscious of what’s going on around you!
And now we’re back home, in the snow…sigh. Good memories!