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Is it Live or is it Memorex?- Allure of the Seas Review September 18-25 with Pics!

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This is my Review/Trip Journal for our Eastern Caribbean cruise on Allure of the Seas September 19-25, 2011. If you have never read any of my reviews before I will let you know upfront this will be long and it will contain a lot of pictures-with an emphasis on drool inducing food porn-and hopefully a lot of information that you will find useful and enjoy. We tried to get a lot out of this cruise and we pretty much kept going until we dropped, and I will focus on all of these experiences and how it all worked out for our family. This review will be formatted chronologically, and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have so please don’t hesitate to ask at any time! So what are you waiting for? Let’s get Cruising!

 

Friday September 16- Travel

 

We live in Tampa, FL which is about a 4 1/2 hour drive to Ft. Lauderdale. Our family consists of 5 members, my husband Ron and myself (both age 37) and our children: Brendan 11- (almost 12), Savannah (10), and Sarah (3). We left home at about 2:30 PM and arrived in Ft. Lauderdale at about 7:30. It is our cruise tradition to start off our vacation with a meal at Cracker Barrel, so we had a good meal there before heading to our pre-cruise hotel Hyatt Place Airport South.

 

Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner?

 

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We had previously stayed at the Hyatt Place North , but we like to get deals through Hotwire and Expedia and this time the deal was at South ($49/nt). The big difference was obviously the location. We much preferred the HP North, as it was just minutes from the Port. South is about 10-15 minutes away- so not as convenient. One other thing we did not like about HP South is the Lobby had an extremely strong fragrant odor to it that smelled as if someone had just dropped a large bottle of cheap perfume. It gave us a headache and clung to us every time we passed through. I am normally not sensitive to fragrances at all, and it bothered me.

 

Our room was pretty typical. We were given one of the 2 Queen- plus pull-out sofa bed rooms (normally an additional $10/night, but we were not charged). This was enough space for all of us. The rooms were comfortable and spacious, though the beds were extremely firm, which wasn’t to our taste and left us stiff and achy in the morning.

 

Hyatt Place South

 

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Our Room:

 

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By the time we got settled in the room it was getting late, and we had a big day planned for Saturday so we hit the sack!

 

 

Saturday September 17-Beach Day, Oasis Sail Out

 

 

We started off this day leisurely. Hyatt Place does offer a free continental breakfast including the typical offerings of cereals, fruit, pastries, bagels, etc. It was not remarkable- what you would expect from a low end chain.

 

After breakfast we went to the store and picked up a few last minute essentials (soda, etc. ) and made a trip to pick up the Port Everglades Webcam banner to use at sailaway the next day. We then headed out to the beach, using the nearby Ft. Lauderdale South Beach Public Access. This is a well appointed beach area with a large playground and swings- even a tire swing. There are picnic tables and grills available. Parking is by meter stations and costs a nominal amount (a dollar or so an hour or thereabouts).

 

Fun at the Beach:

 

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After some fun in the sun, we went out to the jetty to watch Oasis leave. We did not have very good directions on where to go so we just kind of drove around until we found the area that looked like it might lead out to the beach area by the jetty. There is street parking here which is allowed and free of charge between 6 AM and 6 PM. I have read that parking tickets are given out promptly at 6 PM, so be careful to quickly retreat to your vehicle after the ship sails if this is something you decide to do.

Street Parking near Beach Access:

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It is still a little bit of a walk to get out to the jetty. First you have to walk east about a block past the condos and you will find this gate to a public beach access path:

 

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It’s a long path

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You emerge out onto the beach very close to the jetty. Be very careful, as the rocks are quite dangerous, and very slippery when wet.

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The view is quite spectacular. We could hear the passengers on the boat cheer as they passed, and it was quite exciting! There was also a wise guy who decided to moon Oasis and he generated a lot of hoots and hollers from onboard as well.

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The crowd on the rocks (Photo courtesy of inletphotos.com)

 

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And as seen from Oasis! (Photo courtesy of Trainman-2)

 

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We headed a few blocks north on A1A to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for dinner. There was a nice breeze so we elected to eat outside on under the covered porch. Food and service was good, if a little pricey.

 

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Shrimper’s Net Catch Peel ‘N Eat Shrimp (1/2 Garlic, ½ Cajun) $12.49

 

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Shrimp Po Boy $10.99

 

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Dumb Luck Coconut Shrimp $17.59

 

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Lt. Dan’s Drunken Shrimp $16.59

 

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The kids’ meals come in a cute “Jenny” boat: ($4.99-$5.29)

 

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Dessert: Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae $7.50 (enough to share!) This was AMAZING!!!

 

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We were so excited it was hard to go to sleep, and once we did, even harder to stay asleep- a problem exacerbated by a very noisy party going on across the hall that did not quiet down until well after 4 AM. The noise did not bother the kids and actually once I realized it was close to 5 AM and I could watch Allure arrive on the webcam my enthusiasm only built more!

 

(Photo screenshot from http://www.portevergladeswebcam.com)

 

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Up Next: Embarkation Day and Rita’s Fiesta

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Wonderful already Jen....Thanks for sharing !!! :D

Edited by TLC535

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Yeah!! Thanks for the review. We sail Allure on Sunday, & are SO excited :D Will keep tuned to your posts to tide me over for the next few days. Think you will be done before we leave?

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Wonderful review. :D Thanks for being so detailed. :) Really love the photos too. :D Can't wait to hear all about the rest of your cruise.

Edited by billiebob

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I LOVE reviews with loads of pictures.....and yours are great so far!

 

Looking forward to reading more about your cruise on the Allure. Thanks!

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Fantastic review and pics! Love the Fort Lauderdale pictures and of the Oasis as we live in that area and are also sailing on the Oasis in November. Bubba Gump looks pretty darn good - I'll have to check it out sometime!

 

Can't wait to read more......

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Great start to your review, and wonderful photos, too!

 

Hope you loved Allure as much as we did!

 

Looking forward to more,

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Thank you all for your replies! I work nights and wanted to put this next part up quickly before going to bed. I will have more for you from Day 1 later this afternoon plus address your comments and questions individually then! :)

 

Thanks so much for reading!

Jen

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Sunday September 18- Day 1- Port Everglades

 

We re-awoke at a reasonable hour after falling back to a more restful sleep in the early morning hours. Another breakfast from the complimentary buffet, and we were ready to check out (quick and painless) and head to the Port at about 10:30 AM.

 

Since we did drive our own vehicle, we elected to use Park ‘N Go to park at for the duration of the cruise. It was substantially cheaper than parking directly at the Port (they offer an internet special- check out their website- at $5.99/day. Sometimes the coupon is for $6.99/day but either way that offers a lot of savings.)

 

Signage was ample and it was easy to find the Park N go lot. We were directed where to park and one of their signature yellow shuttle buses pulled right up behind our van and the driver hopped out to help load our luggage. Within just minutes we saw this:

 

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And then this!

 

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We were dropped off right in front of the check in building at almost exactly 11 AM. We tipped our driver, then the porter who was there waiting to drag our bags about 15 feet to the waiting luggage containers, and we were heading into Terminal 18.

 

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Security took about 5-8 minutes for us. There were no lines, but upon screening, they decided Ron’s carry on suitcase full of Coke Zero needed to be hand searched. It was relatively quick and painless and we did expect it after reading Trainman’s live report from the day before.

 

We followed the clear signage to our designated check in counter area, which was also quite unpopulated. Our rooms were on Deck 14 so we quickly moved to those queues, and up to a counter in seconds:

 

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This process of Check-in took about 5 minutes and we were told boarding had begun and to head upstairs. We took our embarkation photo, which is located right behind the check in desks, and headed up the escalators.

We’re ready to begin an amazing cruise!

 

Once upstairs, things got a bit confusing. Since we had children, who are required to wear a wristband indicating their lifeboat station, we were sent in one direction for those to be applied. After that we were directed through a labyrinth of a queue maze, which ended in a dead end. We were told to have a seat, and when it was our turn we would be led to the gangway. We did have to wait a further 10-15 minutes in these seats while some of the other little holding pens of passengers were led to embark. We noticed a nice little kids play area on the far side of the terminal but since we were corralled in our little pen it wasn’t very convenient for us to go use. I will say the staff seemed very knowledgeable and communicated with each other at all times, so our fear that our little group would get left behind or skipped over was unfounded.

 

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Before we knew it we were called and headed up the (LONG!) zig-zag gangway to the ship. We were onboard at 11:35 AM, so 35 minutes curb to ship is not too shabby. Great Job RCCL!

 

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We entered the Royal Promenade next to Sorrento’s- and my first impression was it was a lot smaller than I expected. I will say it was *EXTREMELY* crowded, and that certainly contributed. It was as elegant as I expected though.

 

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And just to remind you, today is:

 

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Before we could let loose and have fun, though, we had some reservations to procure. We did get most of our reservations online prior to the cruise, but a couple of the specialty restaurants we wanted to book did not have times available online that worked with our show schedule. We tried to figure out just where to go to get these reservations. There were desks at the “Clock Tower” in the Promenade, but those were for shore excursions only (and the lines were horrendous!) Finally we found a staff member who told us a number to dial from any house phone to make the dining reservations. We found a phone near the forward elevator bank and quickly made our Giovanni’s reservation, but we would have to call back for Samba Grill.

 

With that task complete for the time being, we headed up to Park Café for some Roast Beef sammies. It was already very busy- and let me tell you, the secret is out about this place. It was packed-all day, every day-for the entire week! Be prepared for a wait and some chaos when you go there, but remember the payoff is worth it:

 

World’s Best Roast Beef Sandwich!

 

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It was super hot in Central Park (seating was hard to come by, especially inside the restaurant), so we didn’t linger. We then called Samba back and got our ressie squared away, and could now fully sit back, relax, and enjoy the ship!

 

We explored the pool deck, there were not many people out yet!

First Ice Cream!

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Eat your heart out, chair hogs!

 

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It was someone’s bright idea to make a stop into the Windjammer for more snackage. I did not really relish fighting the crowds in here, but it was actually relatively easy to find a table. Yes, it was quite busy but we managed to find what we were looking for with relative ease. Another boarding-the-ship tradition, Honey Stung Chicken:

 

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It was NOT as good as we have previously had on Independence of the Seas. It resembled a frozen chicken breast sandwich patty- a texture I did not really care for. I remember it being actual chicken meat on Indy, not that processed piecemeal stuff. Oh well. The kids were happy:

 

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When we were finished eating, staterooms were ready so we headed to our rooms on Deck 14 forward. Our children had #14575, a Category L inside:

 

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The beds were supposed to be apart, and after meeting with our awesome stateroom host Anthony he quickly fixed the room setup, and it did seem much more spacious that way.

 

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The dual ipod/iphone dock was awesome. Be aware if you have some older model ipods they might not fit well. My husband has a first generation itouch and it did not sit right in the dock-we had to wiggle it and almost force it in. But once we used a lot of pressure, it did work. My iphone 4 fit perfectly.

 

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In the bathroom, the sink counter and console was much shallower in depth than I expected. It wasn’t really a problem-just something I hadn’t noticed in pictures I had seen previously. Don’t expect to keep a lot of items in the cabinets below the sink. They don’t hold much. Maybe we are just high maintenance, but we just kept our toiletry duffel on the floor and used it to store our bathroom items rather than unpack all of our toiletries, sunscreens, and supplies. There is no clothesline, which I missed, but there are plenty of hooks for hanging wet bathing suits; Six in the bathroom alone (2 on the wall, one in the shower and 3 behind the door), and a few more on the wall in the room.

 

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Shower- the standard royal toothpaste tube. It seemed slightly roomier than I remembered from Freedom class. And as much as I loved the shave bar, I hated the basket that held our shampoo and other bathing items. It had very wide wire and leaned at an angle and our shampoo and conditioner- despite being very large bottles-constantly slipped though the wire to the floor. Not a huge deal- just annoying. Also no soap dish or shelf inside the shower, aside from the wire basket so we had to prop our soap elsewhere.

 

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The toiletries- not great, standard hotel toiletry fare. My daughter liked using the shampoo and conditioner and I did use the shower gel. Of course these will not stay put in the aforementioned toiletry basket, so you have to keep them on the floor or propped on top of the “all-in-one” mystery liquid dispenser standard on Royal fleetwide.

 

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Biggest pet peeve: no trash can in the bathroom. I was not used to that, but by the end of the week we were in the habit of taking the short walk to the only other stateroom garbage can to dispose of our tissues, wrappers, and empty product containers.

 

Our stateroom was directly across the hall, 14574 -a Cat. D2 Balcony, and appointments were very similar. It was noticeably larger than the inside room, but also noticeably smaller than Freedom Class. It had the bed by the closet- which we did know ahead of time. Not sure if we preferred that setup or not. Yes getting into the closet was a bit of a hassle, but we did like having the couch area near the balcony.

 

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We did, unfortunately, have smokers next to us and the smoke was quite heavy on the balcony when they were out there smoking. We are very sensitive to cigarette smoke so this was disappointing. I wish Royal would at the very least make one side of the ship no-smoking on balconies. No offense to the smokers out there. There were not out there all the time though so we did still enjoy our balcony very much. We are bona fide balcony snobs, no doubt about it.

 

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Our stateroom did have 2 robes. I think this may be that they are only provided for adults- the other room had all of the kids booked in it. I loved these, very nice!

 

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One other thing I did not like is the recessed stateroom doorways. It’s nice to not be blocking the hallway trying to open your door, but it can make for some close encounters with your neighbors if you happen to be entering and leaving at the same time. Occupants from both rooms cannot enter or exit at the same time, and it seemed to happen to me quite a bit. Of course because we had across-the-hall rooms for our family we were in and out more than most others would be.

 

Here you can see the close proximity of the doors:

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And our door decorations:

 

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Once we were a bit settled in, we headed up to start having fun on deck! We were among the first zip-liners! I found it a bit scary, even though I have done the zip line at Labadee before! Savannah was not heavy enough- you have to weigh 75 pounds, and they insisted upon weighing her BEFORE allowing her to put on her gear. She was only a few pounds under so we would let her try again after a few days of eating!

 

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