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Review - Allue OTS - Sept 29 - Oct 6, 2013 w/ photographs

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Allure of the Seas – September29 –> October 6, 2013

Saturday, September 28, 2013 – Travel day

Well, I’m in LAX now and I’ll be boarding in about one hour. It has been an interesting morning so far, but more on that later. This is my 24th cruise and my ninth with Royal Caribbean (I am Diamond). This is my first cruise on the Allure OTS (I have not been on the Oasis OTS).



When other vacation plans did not work out I started looking for an in expensive cruise to take. Royal Caribbean was offering a Central Park view balcony for about $1400 for the cabin. This is far below the prices of $2,500 plus I’ve been seeing for balcony cabins on the Oasis / Allure OTS. After a price reduction I was able to upgrade to an ocean view balcony cabin for free. My cabin is directly across from the Diamond Lounge.




At any rate, I woke up this morning, moved my luggage down stairs and waited for the taxi. I had a reservation for 7:54am. When the taxi should have arrived and it hadn’t I called the cab company. Seems they were busy and would have someone there in 10 – 15 minutes. That was unacceptable. I made a reservation for the taxi several days ago, so the company had plenty of time to make sure it was properly staffed. I cancelled the taxi and went to plan “B”, which as luck would have it is actually a little less expensive, but also a little less convenient. My original plan was to take a taxi to the FlyAway bus ($15), take the bus to the airport ($8) and take a shuttle back home ($50 - $73 total). I cancelled the shuttle and drove to the FlyAway. Parking is $4/day ($36) and the round trip bus fare is $16 making the total $52.



Once on the bus the driver had to inform some of the passengers that their luggage went on the earlier bus. Since on their last trip they had their luggage stolen (in Mexico out of their locked car), they were a little concerned. However, the earlier bus just made an extra loop around LAX and was waiting for them with their luggage in front of their terminal.

As I mentioned earlier, I was looking for an inexpensive cruise, so in keeping with that theme I looking into flying on mileage rather than purchasing the airfare. American was offering a coach class ticket for 37,500 miles or first class seat for 50,000 miles. I went with the first class ticket. These are not the flights I would normally book myself, leaving at midday, having only a 45 minute connection in Dallas and arriving in Fort Lauderdale at 8:30pm, but for $10 round trip in first class I’m not complaining too much.



Boarding will begin in about forty minutes, so I’ll be back at you this evening after a late dinner, unless the plane has a power port, in which case I’ll update things on the plane.



Well, here I am, somewhere over New Mexico. We left forty minutes late and I have a 45 minute connection. I prefer connection times in the sixty to ninety minute range, but then again these tickets only cost $10, so I took it, and I get to spend the next six hours wondering if my luggage will make it. Oh boy, it sure has been a fun day so far.



Some people have an expanded idea of how tall the overhead bins are. There were people trying to stuff carry-ons that were fatter than they were wide into the overhead bins. They did not look too happy when they had to check the items. However, I don’t think that is what really delayed us. The captain mentioned some safety issue and then LAX is not well designed for moving aircraft to and from the taxiways and runways. Hopefully things will work out.



On board the stewardess asks me what I want to drink. I answer orange juice. Then she says all we have is shrimp. Huh? I think about that answer for a while before realizing she is referring to the meal. The shrimp was actually pretty good and other than the salad was the only thing on the plate I recognized. I don’t know what the other stuff was, but it tasted pretty good.




Way below us is another plane. Since we are not gaining on it, it must be a jet, but it is pretty low. It is too far away for me to tell exactly what it is. I’m guessing it is a business jet getting ready to land.



The plane is making all sorts of turns. The captain informs us that air traffic is routing him around weather. I’m looking at my watch figuring I’ll be landing while my connecting flight is taking off on the adjacent runway (this actually happened to me once on a business trip).



Well, we should be landing in about an hour, so I’m going to get back to my Bejeweled game until we have to shut everything down. There is an electrical outlet between the seats, so I am not using any of my laptop's battery power.




I made it to my connecting flight with the cabin door almost hitting me in the back side as I boarded. We left the gate ten minutes late, so I hope my luggage made it. Right now we are either flying north or the sun is not setting in the west. We got rerouted twice while on the ground. So first we head to one end of the airport and then to the other end. I wish we could have spent that time sitting at the gate. Another ten minutes at the gate and I could have been sure of my luggage making the flight. My arrival at baggage claim will be like Christmas, hoping to find a big blue present with roller wheels under the tree (or on the carousel).



I hope the captain knows where he is going. He said the flying time would be two hours and 33 minutes. However, the flying time from LAX to DFW was supposed to be two hours and 27 minutes and FLL is closer to DFW than LAX is. Perhaps someone forgot to allow for the one hour time change. The good news is now the sun is behind us, so we are turning in the right general direction.




The captain has just informed us that we did take off to the north and we will be going over Tennessee so the flight is going to take an hour longer as we are dodging weather. And this folks is the reason for flying in a day early – especially if my luggage did not make the flight. There are later flights from DFW to FLL and American can put my luggage on a later flight and I’ll still get it in time.



So with everything sorted out, more or less (I hope), it is back to my game. See you in FLL.



Good evening. It is 11:30pm local time. I made it – and so did my luggage. I think flying first class saved me because I arrived at LAX early, so my luggage would have been early on and thus last off. However, first class gets priority luggage, and thus it was early off when we landed at DFW and was the fifth piece of luggage off in FLL.




I had a hamburger at the hotel’s bar/restaurant ($12 but it was good) and now I’m back in the room taking advantage of the free Internet service. This is the first expensive hotel I’ve been in that doesn’t charge a small fortune for Internet use. In the past, the more expensive the hotel, the more expensive the Internet use was. I'm at the Hyatt Pier 66 hotel with a view of the cruise ship harbor.




I’ll have a view of the Allure once it docks. I’ll take a few pictures and then head over to the pier to board. So, hopefully, the next time we chat I’ll be on the ship. So for now, good night.

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Sunday, September 29, 2013 – Embarkation day

I woke up around 5am and there was no Allure. However, around 6am, to my surprise, someone who must be very rich comes into the harbor with the biggest yacht I have ever seen. Nonetheless, it appears (s)he must have run out of money while building the ship because part of the back end is missing. I snapped off a few pictures and having completed everything I wanted to do except shower and checkout, I went back to sleep. Later I, when there was daylight; I took a few more pictures of the Allure of the Seas, my new home for the next week.




I received phone messages, e-mails (note the use of the letter “s” at the end of the words) and I think I even saw a carrier pigeon with a note on its leg around my house. Basically Royal Caribbean doesn’t want me to show up early because the Federal budget cuts have cut down on the number of customs agents that are assigned to clear the ship, so it takes longer to clear the ship. And like a fool I bought into this story. So instead of arriving at 11am like I usually do, or in the afternoon like Royal Caribbean wanted me to, I left the hotel at 11:30am, and I was putting my carry-ons in the cabin at noon (yes, it was that fast). I prefer to be one of the first to board and I have actually been the first to board a few times. Royal Caribbean is just trying to spread out the crowd of people so that five thousand people don't all attempt to board at 11am.




After informing my cabin steward that I am leaving my carry-on bags in the cabin, I head out with my camera to photograph the ship (I have 290 from embarkation day). I would have had more, but the layout of this shop is very different from most other ships, and I spent some of the time just figuring out where things are. There are touch screens near the elevator banks on all decks that can help you find things if you get disoriented. The high traffic areas are:



Deck 5 mid ship – the Royal Promenade

Deck 6 aft – the Boardwalk

Deck 8 mid ship – Central Park

Deck 15 mid ship – the pool deck



I did find the Windjammer on deck fifteen. The line went out the door, so I had a slice of pizza at Sorrentos in the Royal Promenade and a hot dog at the Dog House on the Boardwalk. Both were free of cost and free of lines. Then I had a nice cool shake from the Ice Cream Parlor also on the Boardwalk. There was no line but there is a charge for the shake.



I came prepared to purchase a cruise on the Explorer of the Seas which is repositioning from New Jersey to Port Canaveral in November 2014. The price for the two week cruise which includes stops in the Aruba and Curacao is about the same as a normal one week cruise. So if you have the time and want to check out what a longer cruise is like, contact your travel agent.



I found the Loyalty Ambassador and signed up for 9:30am on Tuesday. I later realized that was a mistake, because the Meet & Mingle was at that time. However, after signing up I looked around and realized there was only one other person there. I put my name on the waiting list and ordered a drink (the Loyalty Ambassador is next door to the Schooner Bar on deck six). Before I could finish my drink I was booked on the Explorer OTS and also bought a Next Cruise Certificate. I had the Loyalty Ambassador erase my name from the 9:30am time slot on Tuesday.



By this time I had walked the length of the ship several times, so my feet were a little sore, my legs hurt and I was ready to melt. It is in the upper eights (as far as I am concerned, anything over seventy is hot), but the real killer for me is the humidity (being from dry Southern California). So I head back to the cabin to rest and watch some football games. My luggage arrived about midafternoon.




Finally the muster drill sounded at 4:30pm. Fortunately my station is inside and we don’t have to bring our life vests. I’m not sure, but I believe that all the muster stations are inside. After the muster drill I headed up to the Wipe Out Bar (it is located between the two Flowriders on deck sixteen aft) to meet up with the roll call group (there are over 100 signed up). It is a good group with people from New Zealand, Germany, Mexico, Canada and the United States. Some of the people on this cruise were on this ship last week (back to back).




After the sail-away I went back to the cabin to unpack, watch more football and rest some more as I’ve got late seating.

I’m at a table for eight and only four showed up. Our waiter also has a table for twelve and all twelve are there. Unfortunately the only time I saw our waiter and assistant waiter is when they were delivering food, which meant that I had to interrupt them to get more water. Having had no breakfast and a very light lunch, I was hungry, but not starved. I had shrimp cocktail, a full beef with spinach dinner plus a half order of sliders. Dinner was good.




After dinner all I could think about was getting some sleep, so until tomorrow, good night.

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Royal Promenade ...






The interactive signs on each floor near the elevator shafts ...





Take a peek, there is actually a scene in there ...


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These machines, located at different places throughout the ship, are for the all you can drink soft drink program ...






Edited by Cuizer2

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Monday, September 30, 2013 – Nassau


I woke up today seeing shore lights. I figure we must be getting close to Nassau. I take a quick peek outside and realize we are actually in the harbor and someone is spinning the island around the ship so that we can back in. We dock on the far end of the pier with the portside next to the dock (my cabin is on the starboard side).


I am hoping to catch a nice sunrise over Atlantis, the signature hotel of Nassau. So I put my camera on the balcony so it can warm up. I keep my room as cold as possible and I know from experience that the humidity will fog the lens until the lens and outside air are the same temperature. I’m on my balcony with a clear view of Atlantis. However, the ship is docked facing more or less west, and I am just ahead of the forward “hump” (the Allure OTS has two humps). So my view aft is compromised a bit. Fortunately the sun rises on my side of the ship, not quite over Atlantis, but I get the shot I wanted. However, I do end up with the balconies behind me in the photograph.


I am going on my only ship sponsored tour today. It is a tour of Atlantis. We are given a tour of the casino and the aquarium. The entrance to the casino is past some high end shops. The tour guide wants to make sure we can find our way out at the end, so she asks, what was the first shop we passed when we came through the entry doors. Well, this is too good of an opportunity to pass up, so I blurt out K-Mart. Everyone gets a good laugh and the tour guide goes as far as to say she likes me.


The aquarium was interesting, but I have been to several aquariums. I get some pictures, and stay with the group, but realistically, I am soon much more interested in seeing anything that is in an air conditioned room (it is hot and humid). The tour lasts about an hour and it was a nice tour with a pretty good tour guide. We are all given radio receivers at the beginning of the tour and the tour guide talks to us through a radio transmitter. It is a good system as we can always hear the tour guide, even if we are not standing next to her). The only problem is, every time the tour guide says come over here; you cannot locate her buy looking in the direction of the sound, since it is coming via stereo headphones.


After the tour there is some opportunity to explore more on our own. However, I do the math and quickly figure out that since we have to be on board by 1:30pm, there is not a lot of time for this and I want to check out the straw market. This is my second time to Nassau and I didn’t see the straw market the first time I was here, so I am in the first bus (there are five, one every thirty minutes from 11am to 1pm) back to the ship.


The entrance to the pier (where we are dropped off) is at the back end of the ship. The straw market is at the front end of the ship. So I have to walk a little over one thousand feet to get to the straw market. Fortunately I filled a water bottle with ice and cold water before going to Atlantis and it is still cold when I enjoy it while walking in the shade to the straw market.

Much to my surprise, though there are several stalls selling all sorts of touristy things, nobody is selling any straws, so I guess I’ll have to pick some straws up at the grocery store next time I go grocery shopping at home.


I head back to the ship only to see a long line waiting to get back on board. Considering it is before 1pm the line seems to be forming early. However, it is the security line. After passing through that there are three gangways to get on the ship. Those in muster stations A, B & C use the forward gangway (I’m in muster station “C”).


Back on board, and covered in sweat, I decide a shower is in order. Though I like hot showers at home, here I end up setting the shower temperature at its lowest setting which is actually warm. The water in the pipes in the cabin is cold, but once that comes out of the shower head all the “cold” water is actually warm. Fortunately the mini refrigerator works and I can keep a glass full of water in the refrigerator for drinking. I also told the cabin attendant that I wanted ice (you have to make a special request for ice – there is a sign in the cabin pointing this out). I also use the melt water from the ice for creating cold water for drinking.


After my shower I go to check the Cruise Compass (the ship’s newspaper) and there isn’t one in my cabin. No problem I just go to the Diamond Lounge to pick up one. However, between the wait staff and the room steward, service, which is normally a Royal Caribbean hallmark, is not up to par. It is not bad, it just is not as good as I have come to expect from Royal Caribbean. For example, I wanted orange juice in the Diamond Lounge in the morning. You have to ask for it, there is no self serve orange juice (just self serve ice water and coffee). The waiter brings out a try of orange juice and walks right past me. Fortunately he still has a glass of orange juice left on the way back and I finally get my orange juice.


On the way back to the cabin I see my room steward and point out that he didn’t leave me a Cruise Compass. He is surprised and offers to get me one, but I show him I picked it up myself.


I check the TV for my personal schedule. All the shore excursions and shows that I booked through Royal Caribbean are listed, along with the arrival and departure times for the ports (however, nothing is listed for the starboards and I’m on the starboard side of the ship). But I can also add things I want to keep track of, like the Meet & Mingle at 9:30am on Tuesday.


The TV also has a place to received e-mails. I hoped that this would mean less PA announcements, but no such luck. The problem is the e-mail is full of messages that basically involve ways to separate me from my money. The only thing missing is a few get rich quick schemes from people with long unpronounceable names that are relatives of displaced royalty of some African nation that I have never heard of.


In addition, the ship has people located at strategic places on the ship (like the exit from the Aqua Theater after a show) providing handouts with other ways to separate the passengers from their money. And finally, there are voice mails from shopping coordinator and the art auction. So this is a lot like being at home. I wonder if it is possible to put the cabin phone on the do not call list.


While the ship has a lot to offer, in my opinion this resembles more of a floating amusement park than a cruise ship. However, based on the research Royal Caribbean has done, that is what most of the passengers want. Take a look at what is coming next - bumper cars. I'm not saying I don't like the Oasis class ships, I would be willing to cruise on this ship again, but the experience is completely different from my prior 23 cruises (this ship is about 45% bigger than the Freedom class of ships, which are the former largest cruise ships).


And finally, speaking of ways to separate the passengers from their money, Royal Caribbean is still using Park West for art auctions. Park West’s reputation is questionable. I personally would not buy anything from Park West and I really have to question why Royal Caribbean would continue to use this company. Just Google "Park West Gallery Reputation" and you will see why.


At any rate, now I am hungry, so I head to the Windjammer. Again the line is out of the door, so I head over to Johnny Rockets which has a $4.95 cover charge and the shakes are $4.50. Being Diamond I get one free shake at Johnny Rockets. Since the “coupons” are all electronic, tied to the SeaPass card, I am told I can save the free shake until my next visit (you cannot do that with coupons). The same is true of the show reservations; they scan the SeaPass card at the entrance to verify that you have a reservation for the show, so no tickets are needed.


After lunch I am thinking I would like to go swimming. But first I check my personal calendar on the TV and realize I have a conflict. I am set to see the Oceanaria at 9pm and my dinner time is 8:30pm. It is too late to warn my tablemates that I will not be at dinner tonight. I’ll just go to the Windjammers around 7pm and go to Oceanaria around 8:30pm. I was cooled down by the earlier shower and I was very tired, so I ended up just relaxing for the rest of the afternoon.


At the Windjammer I am escorted to an open table and then allowed to pick out my food. Dinner at the Windjammer was good, especially the spaghetti, which I went back for seconds.


After dinner I went back to the cabin for a while and then headed to the 9pm showing of Oceanaria at 8:40pm. There is no reserved seating, so the earlier you get there the better the seat you can get. Nonetheless, I am not going to show up super early just to get a good seat and then twiddle my thumbs for the next hour (you will also not find me camped out at Best Buy on Tuesday night waiting for the big sale on black Friday).


The first three rows are marked as the splash zone. I thought about the pros and cons of sitting there, as the seats were great and nobody was sitting there. Finally I decided that the goal of high diving was to make as small of a splash as possible. So I sat dead center in the last splash zone row. I would have been fine if the guy that was the designated clown was not trying to get me wet. He got a few drops on me, but I kept my DSLR camera dry.


Since the show is billed as a diving exhibition, I expected to see a lot of diving. However, prior to the show the cast members and their bios are shown on the big screen TVs. I began to wonder what was up, as most of the cast members had dancing and gymnastics backgrounds (not diving). Turns out the show includes dance, choreographed strength moves involving two very strong brothers, trampoline and diving from the low, middle and high dive platforms (only two dives from the top platforms).


I decided that since tomorrow was a sea day I could stay up late and walked around the ship taking night time pictures with color in it, such as the Boardwalk and the empty H2O Zone.


When I finally returned to the cabin I was tired and this time the room steward had left the Cruise Compass for the next day. So, until tomorrow, good night.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013 – Day at sea


Today is a day of rest. I wake up late and eat breakfast in the Diamond Lounge. My goal today is to take ship board photographs and get some rest (I hate humidity). A dip in the pool was also a possibility, but I was so tired, I decided the air conditioned room and a soft bed was cool enough.


This morning was the Meet & Mingle following by a Crown & Anchor event. We had over one hundred registered for the Meet & Mingle, but only about sixty showed up. I won a small prize for knowing the names of the five Voyager class ships.


Right after the Meet & Mingle there is a Crown & Anchor event at the Aqua Theater (the diving pool). I notice that the captain and the hotel director stop to have pictures taken with someone sitting in the audience. Later the loyalty ambassador says that the passenger with the most points is in the audience and he looks in the direction of where the captain and hotel director shopped to have their picture taken. Then, while watching a mini version of the Oceanaria show the loyalty ambassador sits next to one of the passengers. I put one plus one plus one together and came up with the person known as Super Mario. He has over 4000 points. Even at two points per day that comes to over 2000 days at sea, which is more than five years at sea. To put that in perspective, the navigation officers work half the year, which means that after ten years on the bridge they only have 1825 days at sea. After the show caught up with Mario and I introduced myself. He confirmed that he is who I think he is.


After the Crown & Anchor event I am off to photograph the ship. During my photography session I finally figured out the Coke machines. The cruise line charges for soft drinks and these machines don’t take money, so I was a bit puzzled at first. These are the new machines that dispense about one hundred different soft drinks based on the sequence of buttons one pushes. Someone put in a cup and started pushing the buttons, but the machine displayed a message that no cup was detected. That is when I realized that these machines detect the special cups you get when you purchase the all you can drink soft drink package, which explains all the people walking around with the same multicolored Coke cups. I'm not a big soft drink drinker, but who wants to walk around all day with a sixteen ounce cup. It doesn't fit in one's pocket as easily as a special sticker on the SeaPass card does.


After all the morning’s events and running around I grab a quick lunch (pizza and hot dog - the Windjammer has a line again) and head back to the cabin to shower and cool off. I end up just resting until it is time for Chicago the Musical. One humorous thing is that one of the TV shows is sponsored by Carnival. Seeing a Carnival commercial on a Royal Caribbean cruise was an eye brow raiser.


Chicago the Musical is basically a ninety minute production show with no scene changes. Since there is no energy, I am less enamored with it than others seem to be.


Chicago ends just in time for dinner. At dinner there are four new people at the table and two (including me) who were there on the first night. Dinner was good; however, we all noticed how slow the service was and start talking about it. Perhaps the waiter hears us because he asks about the service. We mention that service seems a bit slow. He and the assistant waitress promise to do better in the future (and they do).

Edited by Cuizer2

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