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Allure Of The Seas Review with 115 photos & 21 videos

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Reservations Needed!


If most of your previous cruises have been with Carnival or Princess, there's one aspect of cruising on Allure Of The Seas that you should be prepared to deal with: the reservations.


Advance reservations are required for a lot of the shows and for many of the restaurants. Because of this need to reserve so many things in advance, you'll find that you'll need to plot out your entire week in advance on a piece of paper and commit to a plan. This is just a fact of life on Allure Of The Seas. (It was the same way on Norwegian Getaway, too.) My advice is that you research all the dining and entertainment options several weeks before your cruise and make some advance reservations before you even get aboard. It's a different style of cruising than the figure-it-out-as-we-go plan which works quite well on Carnival and Princess... so be prepared and plan out your week. Otherwise, you might not get to experience all the shows and restaurants.

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Restaurants & Food


Up until now, this has been a very positive review of our experiences onboard Allure Of The seas... but this is where we hit the one little rough spot!


We had a lot of fun on Allure Of The Seas and overall we really enjoyed it. However, food was a problem for us. Most of the restaurants that required an extra fee... such as Rita's Cantina, Chops Grille, and Giovannis... were very enjoyable. But the restaurants that were included with no extra fee... such as the buffet, the Adagio dining room, and the Solarium bistro... had a LOT of room for improvement. Also, we had a disappointing experience in the Samba Grill, which is a Brazilian steakhouse. And we never could find one single restaurant during the entire week that could provide what I consider a decent breakfast... and that's my favorite meal of the day. So, out of all 27 cruises we've been on... considering only the food aspect, this was probably one of our two least favorite cruises. But everything other than food was great!


Let's go through the onboard restaurants in more detail. I'll start with the ones we liked a lot...




Giovanni's Table is the Italian restaurant onboard. It is located in Central Park, and you can either eat your meal inside the restaurant, or outside... on the tables you see in this photo.


It was kind of ironic that out of all the restaurants onboard, this turned out to be one of our favorites... as I always had a very different reaction to the Italian restaurants on our 20+ Carnival cruises. I just never once had a meal that I truly enjoyed at Carnival's Italian restaurant! I like Italian food... so on cruise after cruise I would try Carnival's Italian restaurant, and I never once had a truly great meal there! Every time I would say to myself "you must have just ordered the wrong thing from the menu"... and on the next cruise, I would try again and order something different. But I never found anything I really liked! And it always struck me as odd that on the dinner menu of Carnival's Italian restaurant, they didn't even offer Lasagna. That's my standard meal when trying out any Italian restaurant I haven't ever been to before. But it's not even on the menu in Carnival's "La Cucina" Italian restaurant. So, when I saw lasagna on the menu at Giovanni's Table, I suspected I was in for a better experience with Royal Caribbean. Besides, Carnival had set the bar pretty low in this area... so the odds seemed to be in my favor.


So, yes, I did have the lasagna at Giovanni's Table, and I thought it was quite good. The only thing that irked me a little was that the portion they served was not particularly large. Lasagna that good... I would have liked more! After I finished my lasagna, the waiter came by to see how we were doing... and I mentioned to him that I had REALLY enjoyed the lasagna. And then he did something that amazed and delighted me... he asked if I would like him to bring me a second serving! Now that's my kind of restaurant.


This really surprised me... because Giovanni's Table is one of those extra-fee restaurants where you pay an extra charge just to eat there. Our lunch at Giovanni's set us back $15 per person. At dinner time, it's $20 per person. Imagine what would happen if you went to the steakhouse and had a great filet mignon, but you felt it was a little too small... what would their reaction be if you asked for a second one for free? So, I was pleasantly surprised when they so readily offered to bring me a second serving at Giovanni's... and it took a nice lunch out at the Italian restaurant and made it a great one.




We also had a good meal in Chop's Grille... the onboard steakhouse. It's located on the opposite side of Central Park from Giovanni's Table, and also offers plenty of indoor seating as well as a few seats outside in Central Park. There's a $30 per person charge to eat at Chops Grille.


As if paying $60 per couple on top of our cruise fare was not enough... I had read that Royal Caribbean offered a few very special items at Chop's Grille that would incur an additional $19 charge. One of them was a very special dry-aged Porterhouse steak, that had been aged for nearly four weeks to enhance the flavor, tenderness and aroma. Curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to order one... but I figured that for that price, it had better be one of the best steaks, ever!


The lighting inside Chops Grille is kept very low to create an intimate, romantic dining experience... so I wasn't able to get a great picture of it... but here's my $49 Porterhouse Steak meal...




To be honest... I don't think I'll order that again, during our next cruise with Royal Caribbean. Sure, it was a good steak, and I enjoyed eating it... but it wasn't even close to being the best steak I've ever had, which is what I expect to get when paying $49 for a steak. All the stuff that came with the meal was fine, and it really was one of the best meals we had onboard... but still not as good as I would hope for when paying a $19 upcharge on top of a $30 upcharge!


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Rita's Cantina


Another for-fee restaurant that we really enjoyed was Rita's Cantina. (You get that the name is a play-on-words, based on Margarita, right?) I talked a little about Rita's earlier, but now it's time to elaborate... because this was not only one of the more delicious experiences we had onboard, it was also one of the most fun!






You can go to Rita's Cantina and just have a normal meal like you would expect at a Mexican restaurant... but you might want to consider doing what we did, which is to attend a special dinner event called "Rita's Fiesta". You don't get to order off the menu... they have a set menu for Rita's Fiesta that is the same for everyone who attends. But it's pretty good! It all starts with chips and salsa and drinks. Then they bring out a big plate full of appetizers. And then, just around the time the alcohol has started to hit you, this happens:




After the dancing is all over, everyone comes back in to the restaurant and they bring out the main course... which was a delicious serving of Fajitas.



Fajitas, at Rita's


While we were at Rita's, we got chatting with the VERY friendly bartender, Ethel Ronas, who gave us some fantastic advice about what to do when the ship visited Labadee, Haiti. More about that, a little later... but I just want to give a big shout-out to Ethel, who hugely improved our cruise with the advice she gave us.



Ethel Ronas, the super-friendly bartender at Rita's Cantina




When in Rome...

(that's me under the sombrero, in Rita's Cantina)


While we're talking about the specialty restaurants on Allure Of The Seas... Royal Caribbean offers a special deal where they'll give you a 20% discount on the specialty restaurant fees if you eat in at least three specialty restaurants during the week. We did end up eating in three different specialty restaurants during the week, and I was delighted to discover that they AUTOMATICALLY and retroactively gave us the 20% discount without us ever having to ask for it. Well done, Royal Caribbean... and thank you.


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The Park Cafe, in Central Park, was one of the better no-extra-charge dining options. Every review here on Cruise Critic raved about the roast beef sandwiches at the Park Cafe, so I was sure to try one. Good sandwich, indeed... but I wish they offered French fries with it instead of just bags of chips.


I don't want to dwell a whole lot on the negative part of our dining experiences on Allure Of The Seas, but I do have to acknowledge that the majority of the no-extra-charge meals we had onboard left a lot of room for improvement. I was hoping to be delightfully surprised with better-than-Carnival food like I experienced on the Sapphire Princess and Coral Princess earlier this year... but I just wasn't.


I started to suspect that we might be in for food trouble the day before the cruise, when we ran in to some friendly people on the beach in Fort Lauderdale. We were watching the cruise ships head out to sea, the day before we were scheduled to board Allure Of the Seas. We got in to a nice conversation with another couple there on the beach... and they told us that they were staying in Ft Lauderdale for a few days after just finishing a cruise on Allure's sister ship, Oasis Of The Seas. That perked our ears up, for sure... and we started asking them all about how they had enjoyed Oasis and Royal Caribbean. In talking to them, we discovered that we had a LOT in common! They, too, were from Southern California... and they, too, had cruised a LOT with Carnival and were branching out a little and trying Royal Caribbean. They said they liked their cruise on Oasis Of The Seas a lot... but that they had been disappointed in the food. They said they had not enjoyed the food as much on Oasis as they usually do on Carnival. It wasn't that it was horribly bad, it was just that they enjoyed the food on Carnival more.


We definitely came to agree with them as our week on Allure Of The Seas progressed. As I mentioned, there was a lot of good food in the restaurants that charge an additional fee... but the food in the no-extra-charge restaurants wasn't quite what we were hoping for. On Carnival, I always started every day with a great breakfast in the buffet... featuring a made-to-order omelet. On Allure Of The Seas, you can't get an omelet made for you in the buffet. To get a made-to-order omelet, you have to either go to the WipeOut Cafe, Johnny Rockets, or to the Adagio dining room. During the week, I tried all three of those options... and none of them offered a perfect breakfast like I could get every morning in the Carnival Buffet.



Breakfast at Johnny Rockets


The breakfast potatoes at Johnny Rockets were OK, but the omelet wasn't very good and neither was the toast. In the picture, look closely at the cheese oozing out of the side of the omelet. It looks like they just dropped a slice of some kind of processed cheese in to the middle of the omelet. Whatever kind of cheese it was... it didn't work for me. I much prefer they way they make a ham & cheese omelet to order on Carnival.



Breakfast at the WipeOut Cafe


I liked the omelet at the WipeOut Cafe much better, and liked all the other stuff I was able to get (buffet style) along with it... with the exception of the potatoes. The potatoes just struck me as a sign of laziness in the kitchen... that they didn't want to do the work involved in making some real hash browns or some real country-style potatoes... they wanted to put in the least effort possible, so they just deep fried some potato patties, McDonald's style. It strikes me as tacky, and those potatoes were simply too crunchy and not tasty. If they just could have put more effort in to the potatoes... it would have made all the difference, and put them on par with the great breakfasts I always enjoy on Carnival.




I forgot to take my camera with me the one day we tried breakfast in the Adagio dining room. Again, the omelet was fine... but they committed the breakfast sin of serving a big omelet with a microscopic-sized serving of hash browns. The hash browns were actually not at all bad, but the serving size was literally 2/3rds the size of the tiny patty you saw in the picture from the WipeOut cafe. Because it's served in a formal sit-down restaurant setting with a real waiter, it's not really practical to ask for more once you've run out of potatoes, because by the time it would arrive, it would be way too late. To add insult to injury, our waiter in the Adagaio dining room seemed just a little grumpy. Personally, I'd rather eat buffet style at that hour of the day so that I don't have to talk to anyone until I'm a little more fully awake... but if I have to talk to someone, he better be cheery and delightful... not a little grumpy.


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So, none of the breakfasts we had on Allure Of The Seas measured up to the very satisfactory breakfast buffet that we've come to expect from our Carnival cruises.


Lunch wasn't much better. Carnival's got a fantastic burger restaurant called Guy's Burger Joint, and I eat there almost every day when I cruise with Carnival. Not only is it the best burger on land or on sea, but there's no additional fee for it. On Allure Of The Seas, you can get a fairly decent burger lunch at Johnny Rockets... but it will set you back an additional $5 for the burger and another $5 if you want a shake with it. I'd be OK with that if it was a great burger, but it wasn't. It was OK, but not great. The Guy Fieri burgers on Carnival really are great, and then on top of that it doesn't cost you a dime extra... so you gotta score a big win for Carnival on that one.



Lunch at Johnny Rockets




I enjoyed the fact that they have milk shakes at Johnny Rockets

and I proudly displayed a strawberry mustache to celebrate it!


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Regarding dinner, we enjoyed the dinners we had in the specialty restaurants such as Chops Grille and Rita's Cantina, but the dinners we had in the Windjammer buffet were only just OK. The worst one I had was a turkey dinner. We were cruising the week before Thanksgiving, and I was definitely in the mood for turkey the night I saw them offering it at the buffet. I should have passed!




My wife and I have been married for 33 years, and in that time she has progressed from not really knowing how to cook at all to being a truly great cook. I don't know if she'd ever be able to stand the pressure of being on a show liked "Chopped" on The Food Network, but let's just say that over the years she has learned what I like to eat and figured out how to make it really well! Out of all the things she cooks, Thanksgiving dinner is probably her best, most-perfect meal. So, it was probably a stupid mistake to try the Windjammer buffet version of Thanksgiving dinner... since my wife's version sets the bar so high!


Speaking of meals where the bar was set high and the Allure Of The Seas didn't come close to reaching it...

Two months before this cruise, we sailed on what was at that time the newest cruise ship in the world... The Norwegian Getaway. The most spectacular meal we had on the Norwegian Getaway was in their Brazilian steakhouse. It was the first time I had ever been in a Brazilian steakhouse, and it simply knocked my socks off! So, I was very excited when I found out that Allure Of The Seas had a Brazilian steakhouse, too. Unfortunately, the Royal Caribbean version was not in NCL's league.


On the Norwegian Getaway, the Brazilian steakhouse was designed from the beginning to be a Brazilian steakhouse, and that's the only thing that the restaurant is used for. On Allure Of The Seas, what is the Solarium during the day becomes the Samba Grill (the Brazilian restaurant) at night. They throw some tablecloths over the tables, dim the lighting, and call it good. But it's still just really the solarium. So, in terms of ambience and a wow! experience... it's just not there. That would still be OK if the food was outrageously good like it was in the Brazilian steakhouse on Norwegian Getaway... but it just wasn't. Where the Norwegian Getaway's Brazilian steakhouse scored a "10" on food taste and quality with me, the Allure Of The Seas' version would have been lucky to score a "5" at most. The meat just wasn't all that tasty or prepared particularly skillfully... and I truly disliked the choices they made as far as what to serve along with it. I loved everything about the Brazilian steakhouse on Norwegian Getaway... in retrospect I wish I had not gone to the Samba Grill on Allure Of The Seas.





One free item that I did really enjoy on Allure Of The Seas were the white chocolate chip cookies. I was a little worried about the cranberries that were mixed in with the white chocolate chips, but you could hardly tell the cranberries were there.




The white chocolate chip cookies were available in the buffet at lunch and dinner times. If I recall correctly, they had regular chocolate chip cookies one day, and then white chocolate chip cookies the next day... rotating every other day for the entire cruise.


Speaking of free desserts, Royal Caribbean has soft-serve frozen yogurt machines available for the guests to use, just like Carnival does... but they don't offer soft-serve ice cream, only frozen yogurt. But where Carnival always offers vanilla and rotates chocolate and strawberry every other day... Royal Caribbean had multiple machines that, between them, offered all three flavors every day.



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Our 1st Port Of Call: Labadee, Haiti



Allure Of The Seas docked in Labadee, Haiti


Since Labadee is Royal Caribbean's private development on Haiti, and I had never been on a Royal Caribbean cruise before, I really didn't know what to expect. My only real opinion about Labadee prior to our cruise was that it seemed like Royal Caribbean offered a whole lot of over-priced activities... such as a bobsled ride for $25, a 5-minute zip-line ride for $100, or a $225 beach cabana rental. My plan for my very first visit to Labadee was simply to explore the area a bit and see if I could find a nice (free) beach to hang out on... and then, hopefully, whenever I made it back to Labadee for a second visit... I would know exactly what to do there.


As luck would have it, a day or two before our visit to Labadee, we met Ethel... the very friendly bartender from Rita's Cantina... and she totally clued us in on what to do in Labadee. Ethel told us that there are several beaches in Labadee, but that the one with the best sand and the most gentle water conditions is Columbus Cove... and because it's the farthest away from the dock, it's the least crowded. She also said not to worry about the fact that it's the farthest from the ship... because there's a free tram that will take us there and get us back. She sounded like she knew what she was talking about... so it was a no-brainer for us to follow her advice completely. Wow, did she ever know what she was talking about! It was fantastic advice.



Columbus Cove


We had a wonderful day at Columbus Cove! Ethel's advice was right on target. The beach was un-crowded, the tram ride was quick and simple, there were loungers to use for free, and plenty of shade under the palm trees so that we didn't have to worry about getting sunburned. Also, Royal Caribbean provided a free buffet lunch with jerked pork and chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs, salad, desserts, and more.


I liked the way they displayed the fruit at the buffet, so I snapped a picture of it:




It sure was a beautiful day in the Caribbean... and adding to the tropical ambience was a local band that played music for all of us tourists on the beach. I caught one song on video, so you could get a taste of it. Imagine this music playing softly in the background as you swim in the warm Caribbean water. It was paradise!




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This picture gives you a slightly different view of Columbus Cove:



In the distance, you can see the aqua park on the left and the water slide in the center




This is Adrenaline Beach.

On top of the hill, you can see the starting point for the big zip-line.




Looking in the other direction on Adrenaline Beach


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After a wonderful day on Labadee, our cruise was really off to a great start! As we sailed away from Labadee and on to Jamaica, here's a nice shot I got of the sun setting over Haiti...




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Our 2nd Port Of Call: Falmouth, Jamaica


When we're in the Caribbean, we're all about spending time in the water and soaking up some sun... either at a beach, or at least in a nice warm swimming pool somewhere. All of our shore excursions usually have some component of beach time... we're not the type of tourists that go on shopping excursions or take a tour of historical sites. We're all about the sun, the water, and the FUN!


In Jamaica, we chose the "Rose Hall All Inclusive Beach Day" excursion. You board a bus and head over to the Hilton Rose Hall resort... where you get to spend the day enjoying their private beach, lazy river, and swimming pool... and because it's an all-inclusive resort, you have full access to their restaurants and bars at no additional charge. It's a nice way to spend the day!


We rode inner tubes around their lazy river... which was real nice... did a little swimming at their private beach... which was actually not as nice as it looks in this photo...




... we enjoyed a very nice lunch at one of their restaurants... and then settled in at this beautiful swimming pool and enjoyed a few cocktails...




Even though the beach was a disappointment, everything else was GREAT and I totally enjoyed our day here. The icing on the cake was when one of the young ladies at the pool decided to do some sun bathing... and she must not have been an American, because she did her sunbathing topless. I showed tremendous restraint by keeping my camera in the camera bag until she was done. But I definitely enjoyed the view!


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Our 3rd Port Of Call: Cozumel, Mexico


Kellyn and I have been to Cozumel many times, and it's one of our favorite ports of call. As many times as we've been there, I've still barely scratched the surface of all the things to see and do there. If you don't have fun in Cozumel, it's probably your own darned fault!


Cruise ships always pull in to Cozumel in the early morning hours, and it seems like every time we get there, there's a beautiful sunrise. Here's what it looked like from our balcony...




I also shot a time-lapse video of the view as the ship arrived in Cozumel:




If you're wondering how I create those time-lapse videos...

It's actually pretty simple. They're created with my Android phone, using an App called Framelapse Pro. The trick to making it work is to mount the phone securely on something so that it is stable during the entire time you shoot. All you need is this neat little gadget from Amazon.com which makes it easy to clamp your cell phone to something secure, like the railing of a cruise ship... and you're all set to go.


Here's a photo that shows what the little gadget looks like in action... it's my cell phone clamped to the railing of our balcony as the ship arrived in Cozumel:




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While we were in Cozumel, we had lunch at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant located right off the cruise ship pier. It was actually one of the best meals we had during the entire week! Here's the little "Mexican Kitchen" where we had a nice lunch:





The Navigator of the Seas was docked along side us in Cozumel:





Here's one last shot of Allure Of The Seas,

just before we got back onboard for the voyage back to Ft Lauderdale:




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Internet Access


Before the cruise, I had read about some new technology that O3B Networks had developed to improve the speed of Internet access in places that usually have trouble getting an Internet connection at all... like cruise ships in the middle of the Caribbean. The buzz in all the press releases indicated that this would provide a hugely better Internet connection for ships at sea. Royal Caribbean made a big deal about the fact that they would be incorporating this new technology in their new flagship, the Quantum Of The Seas... but I got REALLY excited when I also found out that they would be adding this new technology to Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, too.


To really appreciate this story, you also need to know about a competing technology developed by MTN communications and incorporated with much fanfare on Norwegian Cruise Line's flagship, Norwegian Getaway. I read all the hype about the hybrid system that MTN developed... using a satellite system for Internet at sea, and switching to a wireless connection to a land-based tower when the ship was within sight of an island with a MTN tower. It sounded interesting. But when I actually got onboard Norwegian Getaway and tried it, it was a BIG disappointment. Yes, it was BLAZING fast when the ship was within sight of a MTN tower... but that was a very small percentage of the time! And that was mostly when the ship was docked, I was off on a shore excursion, and completely un-interested in accessing the network. When I really wanted good Internet access... when the ship was out at sea... the satellite connection was just as crappy as it's been on every other cruise ship I had ever been on. So, that system was all hype and really didn't offer me much that was useful.


But the technology developed by O3B Networks and integrated on to the three newest Royal Caribbean ships had a lot more promise. Everyone was saying that it was going to provide a true high-speed Internet connection during the entire cruise.... even when the ship was far out to sea. I was eager to try it!


Having an always-on Internet connection during a cruise is important to me, as is being able to upload and download large files (such as YouTube videos) in minutes rather than hours... so I signed up for the highest-speed Internet option they offer. It's called the "Premium Plus" Internet plan, and Royal Caribbean describes it this way:


"With download speeds never before seen at sea, this package lets you do it all - from streaming movies, to live video calls, downloading large files and more. With Premium Plus the sky is the limit"


So, how fast is it? Not just in words, but in objective, quantifiable terms. To determine that, all we need is a little web site called Speedtest.net... which can very quickly perform a few tests to measure how good your connection to the Internet is.


I ran the speed tests multiple times, just about every day of our cruise, and the results were very consistent. With the Premium Plus plan, I consistently got a ping time of about 185 milliseconds, a download speed of about 4 Mbps, and an upload speed of about .9 Mbps. That's the fastest Internet connection I've ever experienced (at sea) in 27 cruises.


Those numbers may not sound very fast compared to what you might be used to on land (I get 60 Mbps downloads at home with my cable modem) but it actually feels pretty snappy using it in your cabin... and it's not at all frustrating and un-reliable like most at-sea Internet connections have been on my previous cruises. The bottom line: it works, very consistently, and it seems fast as you use it.


For those of you who are not familiar with upload/download speeds and ping times:


The ping test measures how "responsive" the connection is. Basically, it measures how long after you click on something does the server at the other end find out that you clicked on it. Smaller numbers are better. The smaller the number in the ping test, the quicker things happen as you click on things. At home I get a ping time of about 10 ms, which is BLAZING fast... cable modems are really good at that. But a ping time at sea of under 200 ms is a very respectable time and it results in a very good experience as you surf the Internet. It feels like things happen quickly, when you expect them to.


The download test is also very important, especially if you are dealing with very data-intensive tasks like viewing videos or even sites with pictures. For example, on the web page you're viewing right now, with over 50 still photos and a whole bunch of video, too... we're talking about a big chunk of bandwidth just to view this page. Just getting all the pictures to load on to your screen can take a long time if you don't have a good Internet connection with snappy download speeds. When evaluating the speed test results, the larger the number in the download speed test, the better.


Two years ago, I did a Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Magic when Carnival was testing some new high-speed Internet equipment that MTN communications had developed. At the time, it was the fastest Internet connection I had ever experienced at sea, and it was a real joy to use. It worked well, and provided a good user experience. The download speed was about 2 Mbps, and the upload speed was about .5 Mbps... in other words, about half of what I got on Allure Of The Seas thanks to O3B Networks. Hopefully, that helps you put it all in perspective.


Of the three things tested on an Internet speed test, upload speed is really the least important. It most noticeably comes in to play when you are sending pictures (for example, in an email to family or friends) or if you are uploading a video to YouTube. I shot a nice time-lapse video of our departure from Fort Lauderdale on the first day of the cruise, and immediately uploaded it to YouTube. The upload literally just took a few minutes... thanks to the good connection we had onboard with the O3B network. Uploading a video was simple, and worked well. I've tried it on other cruises, and it was just so slow and flaky that I had to wait until I got home to do it.


Before I go any further, this would probably be a good time to show you that time-lapse video I shot of our sailaway from Ft Lauderdale, which I immediately uploaded to YouTube right from the ship rather than waiting until I got home after the cruise:




Now let's talk about the specific options they offer when you sign up for Internet service on the Allure Of The Seas. (And presumably, also on Oasis and Quantum.)


There are three main levels of service available, based on the speed and quality of the connection: The "Basic" plan, the "Premium" plan, and the "Premium Plus" plan... which is the fastest, and that's the one I used during my 7-day cruise.


I have to assume that the "basic" plan is similar in speed and quality to that which is offered on most other cruise ships. In other words, slow. I really can't find any information on how much faster the "premium" plan is supposed to be.


With each of the three plans you can buy access for one hour, 24 hours, or for the entire length of the cruise. It is NOT like the way you buy Internet access on other cruise lines. For example, on Carnival you can buy 120 minutes of Internet access time and you can use it for 5 minutes, log out, and still have 115 minutes left that you can use any time during the rest of the cruise.


With this new system on Allure Of The Seas, you are buying consecutive minutes. In other words, if I buy one hour of Internet access it starts now and ends in an hour. I can't just use five minutes now and log out and use the other 55 minutes on some other day.


Also, if you buy any of the three plans for the duration of the entire voyage, you have a choice of whether you want it to be able to work on just one device at a time, or a more expensive option that would let you use it on two devices at one time. This might be a good option for couples who both need to access the Internet from different devices at the same time.


So, those are all the options. Now let's look at the pricing, because that's where the rubber meets the road, right? If they were to price it a $5 for the whole voyage, everybody would buy it and the network would get clogged up and perform poorly. On the other hand, if they priced it at $1000 for the whole voyage, no one would buy it... and then what would be the point?!?


I happen to think that they have chosen to price it WAY too high. That's just my opinion.


I mentioned my cruise on the Carnival Magic two years ago where Carnival was testing a new high-speed Internet system which provided a 2 Mbps download speed and an always-on connection for the entire length of the cruise. Carnival priced that at $99... and that seemed like a fair price to me.


For the one-device-at-a-time plan on Allure Of The Seas, the fastest option ("Premium Plus", which gives a 4 Mbps download speed) for the entire 7-day cruise sells for a whopping $280.


The "premium" plan, which is the middle speed plan (although I don't know exactly how slow or fast it really is), is priced at $160 for one device at a time during the entire 7-day cruise.


The "basic" plan, which is the slowest option, goes for $150 for the 7-day, one device at a time version.


Here is the pricing for ALL of the versions of the three plans:


Premium Plus Voyage Plan - 2 Devices $350

Premium Plus Voyage Plan - 1 Device $280

Premium Plus Daily Plan $70 Session expires 24 hours from the time of purchase.

Premium Plus hourly plan $35


Premium Vogage Plan - 2 devices - $210

Premium Voyage Plan - 1 device - $160

Premium daily plan - $40

Premium hourly plan - $20


Basic Vogage Plan - 2 devices - $200

Basic Voyage Plan - 1 device - $150

Basic daily plan $35

Basic hourly plan $18


Let's see how this compares to what they currently offer on Carnival. According to Carnival.com, the current fleetwide pricing for Internet service is:


• 480 minutes for $159

• 240 minutes for $89

• 120 minutes for $59

• 45 minutes for $29

• Pay As You Go: $0.75/minute


Again, keep in mind that with Carnival (and Princess, and some others) you can log in, use the connection for a few minutes, log off, and then save the rest of the minutes to be used at some later time. With the new system on Allure Of The Seas (and presumably on Oasis and Quantum) if you buy an hour of access time, it works for one hour beginning right now and 60 minutes later you've run out of time and you can't save up unused minutes. So, this is a bit of an apples to oranges comparison... and one or the other may be better for you depending on how you plan to use the Internet during your cruise.


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The Cruise Director



Jerome Sueur, Cruise Director of the Allure Of The Seas


Jerome did a fine job as CD. He certainly wasn't my all time favorite Cruise Director... that would definitely be Jaime Deitsch of the Carnival Sunshine. She set the bar so high that no Cruise Director will ever be able to reach it! But Jerome did his job well and I can definitely see why they would put him in charge of the entertainment department on the world's largest cruise ship. He's a pro.


I'm looking forward to checking out the Cruise Director when we sail on Royal Caribbean's newest ship, Quantum Of The Seas, next year. I would assume that Royal Caribbean would put the best CD in the fleet on their new flagship. It will be interesting to see what he brings to the table. It will also be interesting to see who Carnival assigns to their new ship in 2016. Let's see if they think as highly of Jaime Deitsch as I do!


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The Captain



Tore Grimstad, Captain of the Allure Of the Seas


You don't get to be Captain of the largest cruise ship in the world unless you've really impressed the management of the cruise line. So, you know that this guy must have the total respect of Royal Caribbean management. He's not the most famous Captain in the company... that would probably be

(who's no longer with Royal Caribbean) or possibly Captain Johnny Faevelen, who is Allure's Captain when Captain Tore is on vacation... and who makes a bit of an impression when he


I liked the fact that Captain Tore flashed a nice smile for me when we saw me pointing my big 400mm Canon lens at him from across the Aqua theater during a Q&A session. That's a pro public-relations move right there.


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Our Cabin Steward


After 27 cruises, we've had many very competent cabin stewards, or "stateroom stewards" as Royal Caribbean calls them. We were delightfully surprised to have the best of them all on Allure Of The Seas. It was especially refreshing because on our previous cruise just two months earlier, we had one of the worst we've ever had! Anyway, our guy on Allure Of The Seas was great:



Novel Castillo


Most cabin stewards do 90% of the same things as the best and the worst do. It's that 10% where the difference is made. Here's what made the difference with Novel, that set him above all the rest. First off, his English skills were excellent. He's originally from Panama, so I'm sure English was not his native language, but he spoke English perfectly with only just a slight Latin accent. Being able to clearly understand your stateroom steward when he speaks to you is a very good thing!


More importantly, he paid attention to our schedule and got his work done when we weren't around. If he saw us leaving the cabin at 7:15 AM, for example, he dropped what he was doing and cleaned our cabin right that minute. Sometimes we'd leave our cabin in the morning for a quick breakfast, and be back in 20 minutes. He'd already have the cabin serviced by the time we got back. He didn't just get lucky and catch us leaving once or twice... he was always keeping an eye out, even when he was cleaning someone else's cabin. If we'd walk down the hall and see him inside someone else's cabin, he always had an eye out on the hallway... and he'd see us leaving. By the time we got back, our cabin had been cleaned.


This was very much in contrast to the cabin steward we had on Norwegian Getaway two months earlier. He had a particular method of cleaning the cabins he was assigned to. He would do them, one at a time, in order, starting at one end of the hallway and working his way down towards the other end. It didn't matter if he saw you leave... he was going to get to your cabin when he got to it... in the same order every time. Very linear thinking! Novel's method is much better for the passengers.


The one other thing I'll point out about Novel is that he was just a nice pleasant guy that was enjoyable to talk to. In fact, I noticed this about many of the employees we dealt with on Allure Of The Seas: they were really friendly, had good attitudes, and seemed happy. It's not always that way on cruise ships! It was a very nice thing to see.


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The Secret Sun Deck


I want to point you to an interesting part of the ship that you might not discover on your own. It's called the sun deck, and you'll find it on deck 14 forward, with access only from the port (left) side of the ship. It doesn't appear on the deck plans, so I bet most people never discover it.


The sun deck sits right above the ship's bridge, with a panoramic view of everything in front of and all around the ship. Basically, it's the same view the Captain and the navigational crew have, without looking through glass and without a roof overhead. Basically, if you visit the Solarium on deck 15 and you find yourself thinking "I wish I didn't have all these windows getting in the way of the view"... you want to be out on the sun deck. It's right in front of the Solarium, just one deck below. This is where you want to go to get the best views of what's in front of the ship.




It gets really windy up on the sun deck when the ship is underway... so, out of safety considerations, the doors that lead to the sun deck will very likely be locked on sea days. When the ship is in port, leaving port, or possibly even when the ship is entering port... you'll probably find the doors to the sun deck un-locked.


Here's Kellyn enjoying the view from the Sun Deck...




To get to the sun deck, take the forward elevators (or stairs) to deck 14 and then look for these blue signs that point the way to the front of the ship on the PORT side. You can only access the sun deck from the port side hallway, not from the starboard side. Take the passenger hallway all the way to the front of the ship on the port side, just as if you were trying to get to the most forward cabin on deck 14, port side. Just past the most forward cabin, you'll see a doorway leading to the sun deck.




As I mentioned, I gets really windy up on the sun deck when the ship is in motion... and the wind makes a loud whistling sound through the edges of the doorway. I bet in the middle of the night, the sound of whistling wind through that doorway gets really annoying in the first few cabins near that doorway. For this reason, it's probably a good idea to avoid booking cabins 14138, 14140, 14142, and 14144.


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Cabin 7220


We stayed in cabin 7220, which is a category D5 cabin. The official terminology for this type of cabin is "Superior Ocean View Stateroom with Balcony"... but basically that's a fancy way of describing a standard balcony cabin similar to the vast majority of cabins on most cruise ships.


On Allure Of The Seas, because of the unique layout of the ship, it is possible to have a balcony cabin without an ocean view... since some balcony cabins face in to the center of the ship rather than out to the ocean. Those would be "Boardwalk View" staterooms or "Central Park View" staterooms. I'm really glad that we didn't choose one of those, as not only do they have privacy issues, but noise issues, too. The balconies on the Central Park view staterooms seemed to have the most serious noise problems... as the noise from the poolside reggae band comes down from the pool deck and disturbs the peacefulness of Central Park and the overlooking balconies.


Here's a look at our cabin:




Our cabin had the couch by the balcony and the bed by the bathroom. But some of Allure's balcony cabins are the opposite of this arrangement... with the bed by the balcony and the couch by the bathroom. It wouldn't surprise me if every other balcony cabin is reversed... as this might offer some small noise reduction benefits. Click here to see a diagram of the cabin layout in that reverse configuration. Personally, I'm glad we got the configuration with the couch and desk by the balcony... as someone sitting at the desk creates a bit of a traffic block in the reverse configuration.




The room was a good size for the two of us. It seemed roughly equivalent in size to balcony cabins we've had on other cruise lines. The one area where it was just a little deficient was in closet space. In the photo above, you can see the one and only closet... next to the bed. We're used to more closet space than that on Carnival. Sharing that one closet felt a little cramped to us, but we were able to make it work.




I liked the desk area. It was perfect for me and my laptop computer. I especially liked the 3-outlet power port that was built in to the desktop, and the fact that there was an additional available power outlet under the desk... for a total of four available outlets. That's three more than you'll find on most Carnival ships. Out of the 27 cruises we've been on, this was the very first time I didn't need the 6-outlet power strip I brought with me.


Notice the iPod/iPhone dock on the right side of the desk. Kellyn used this to charge her iPhone, which meant she didn't have to tie up one of the available power outlets. I'm not an Apple aficionado, so I could be wrong on this, but I think I read somewhere that the new generation of iPods and iPhones use a different type of power connector and therefore would NOT be compatible with the iPod/iPhone docks on Allure Of The Seas. Luckily for us, Kellyn still uses the previous generation of iPhone.


A funny thing happened to me while I was sitting at that desk one morning! I was working on the computer, editing some photos I had taken, and I had the balcony door open to let the warm Caribbean air in to the room. As you've seen in the photos, the desk is right next to the sliding door to the patio... so with the door open, I was just a foot or two from the patio. As I was sitting at the desk working on the computer, all of a sudden I heard the unmistakable sound of a woman having an orgasm! Based on the volume and the clarity with which I heard it, I have to assume that the person who made those sounds was out on one of the other cabin balconies very nearby. If not directly to our left or right, perhaps one floor above or below us. So, welcome to "the balcony club"... whoever you were! Partitions on the balconies block any of your neighbors from seeing you on your balcony... which gives a bit of a false sense of privacy out there. Balcony partitions don't stop the sounds from being heard by your neighbors!


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One thing to mention about the television in the cabin...


There's an interactive menu system built in to the TV so that you can make reservations for shore excursions, restaurants, and shows. This is the quickest and most convenient way of making reservations. The bad news is that if you try to use the TV's interactive features from the TV's remote control, you will be frustrated with a VERY clunky interface that performs poorly and is a pain to use. The very good news, however, is that each cabin also comes equipped with a wireless keyboard that works with the TV's interactive menu system. It actually works really well... far better than trying to use the TV's remote control. So, when using the interactive system to make reservations... definitely ditch the remote control and pick up the wireless keyboard instead. It took me about a full day to finally figure this out.




The bathroom is fine, and the shower actually has a circular sliding glass door rather than the cheap plastic shower curtains they use on Carnival. I just wish the shower had about six more inches of room to it... I sometimes bumped my elbows in to the glass door. But compared to the tiny showers on Princess, this was a definite upgrade. The nicest bathroom and shower we ever had on a cruise was on Norwegian Getaway... but that was in a much more expensive suite, so it's not a fair comparison. I'm sure I will think of that Norwegian Getaway suite bathroom on every cruise I ever go on for the rest of my life!



Here's the cabin at night, with the curtains closed and the bed turned down for bedtime.


One thing this cabin had going for it was a generous-sized balcony. It was quite a bit deeper than a standard balcony on Carnival and HUGELY larger than the tiny balcony we had on the Norwegian Getaway.




If you've ever been in an "extended balcony" cabin on Carnival's Spirit-class ships... you'll know what I mean when I say that this balcony was right around that size.


By the way, there's one very goofy design quirk about Allure Of The Seas that you should be aware of if booking a cabin on deck 7. Beware! Deck 7 is the only deck on the entire ship where it's impossible to get from the starboard side of the ship to the port side of the ship through the aft elevator lobby area.




In order to not block the view of the Boardwalk sign on deck 6, they chose not to connect the port and starboard sides of the ship at the aft elevators on deck 7. It's really odd! You can stand at the port side aft elevators on deck 7 and look across to the starboard side elevators... but there's no connecting walkway between them. On every other floor they connect... but not on deck 7!


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JimYouIdiot.gif Jim, You IDIOT! JimYouIdiot.gif


We have an acronym that we use with increasing frequency in my family. It's "JYI"... and it stands for "Jim, you idiot!" It seems that the older I get, the more frequently the JYI moments are occurring.


During our first few cruises, it was probably normal that I made a few rookie cruise mistakes. For example, on one of our first cruises, I somehow managed to forget to pack any socks! Luckily, I discovered it on embarkation day and was able to run to a Target store and buy some the morning of the cruise. That's only a mildly stupid mistake... I was just learning at that point... and after that I started using a very detailed packing checklist when preparing for a cruise.


But now, with as many cruises as we've been on, it's just plain embarrassing when I have one of those JYI moments. And on this cruise, I had way more than just one!


Earlier this year, on a B2B cruise on Carnival Glory, I managed to snap my prescription sunglass frames in two... which forced me to wear (for the entire duration of the cruise) the only other pair of prescription glasses I had with me: a pair of aviator-style sunglasses. I'm sure I looked a little weird wearing sunglasses in to the restaurants and shows for the rest of the week! After that, I started packing a backup pair of prescription sunglasses with me on cruises... and it was a good thing I started doing that, because this time I managed to break both my regular prescription glasses AND my prescription sunglasses. Jim, you idiot, that was an expensive mistake!




But I'm proud of myself for being prepared enough that I still had a backup pair even after breaking TWO pairs of glasses!


That was just the beginning of the JYI moments, though! Last year, on the Carnival Sunshine, I dropped a $1500 camera lens on to the floor of my cabin... and thought for sure I had shattered the lens when I saw bits of broken glass on the floor near the lens. It turned out that I only broke a $50 filter that had been mounted on to the front of the lens... and the lens itself was undamaged. You'd think that would have been enough of a wake up call to make me more careful with my lenses. Nope! This time, in Labadee, I managed to drop a $600 camera lens on to a cement patio... in plain view of a crowd of people, too! It's one thing to have a a JYI moment privately... much worse to do so in front of a crowd. Jim, you idiot! But once again, I got very lucky and only broke a $20 lens hood mounted on the front of the lens... and managed not to damage the lens itself at all.


Because we had an always-on high-speed Internet connection during the week, I was able to pay close attention to the weather all along our route. A few days before we were scheduled to be in Cozumel, I got a little freaked out by a big weather disturbance in that area... and I became so convinced that the weather was going to be bad when we got to Cozumel that I went to the shore excursion desk and cancelled a really nice excursion we had planned. Of course, when the ship finally did get to Cozumel, the weather had totally cleared and I had unnecessarily cancelled a great shore excursion over fears of bad weather that had no basis in fact. Jim, you idiot!


But the worst JYI moment of all happened on our shore excursion in Jamaica. Just before boarding the bus for the trip back to the ship, I somehow managed to trip on a cement stairway while wearing flip flops... and the impact of my big toe on to that cement step was enough to completely shear off a big chunk of skin on the end of the toe. It was a bloody mess, and even now that I'm home and my toe has healed... you can see where a chunk is missing at the end of that toe. Luckily, I was able to bandage it up for the bus ride back to the ship... and then I was able to buy a box of band aids in one of the stores in the Allure's Promenade... and that's all I needed to hobble through the rest of the cruise.


There was one other incident... not really a JYI situation, just a stroke of bad luck. Somewhere along the line, I managed to pick up some kind of intestinal virus. I was so very lucky in that it did not affect the cruise itself... my first symptoms didn't occur until the day AFTER our flight home. That really could have been a nasty flight home if I had picked up that virus a day or two earlier! I'll spare you the gory details... let's just say that I don't believe it was the dreaded "Norovirus" as I never vomited... but it sure did a number on my digestive system. Very bad luck... made worse by the fact that I absolutely had to work at my "real job" the following week. The person that does my job when I'm on vacation was herself on vacation the week I got back home. So, I had to work with a nasty stomach virus that week... and that was certainly one of the worst work weeks I've had in 22 years with the company!


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Welcome Back!


When our cruise was over and Allure Of The Seas tied up at the dock in Ft Lauderdale, I got a kick out of seeing who we were docked next to...




That's the Carnival Freedom, and she's the next ship we'll be cruising on. It was a nice surprise to see her, and I'm looking forward to having a whole lot of Guy Fieri burgers on her a couple of months from now!


Finally, let me just mention that embarkation from Allure Of The Seas was the best we've ever experienced... which is a bit surprising, given that there were 6000 passengers to disembark. They've got a really nice system, and we were off the ship in minutes. Of course, we were doing self-disembarkation where we hauled all of our own luggage off the ship without any assistance. But that's definitely the way to go if you have good mobility and haven't packed more than you can handle on your own. We had an 11:30 flight out of FLL which we made with hours to spare. We could have easily made it to a 10 AM flight, if we had needed to.


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Speaking of the top decks of the ship,

there was one very odd thing I noticed up there!

Take a look at this thing on the roof with the red tip

and see if you can guess what it is...



Does that look like a missile launcher, or what?!?


I spent several days wondering what that thing was up on top of the ship, and then finally curiosity got the best of me and I stopped one of the employees and asked. It turns out that it is a crane. Those metal tubes can be extended out to form a boom arm and the whole thing can reach way over the side of the ship to bring things up from the dock, if needed.


Here's one other interesting thing I found up on the top decks...




Since this was my very first cruise with Royal Caribbean, I certainly didn't have a gold SeaPass... so I didn't go up the stairs to see what was up there. I assume it was some kind of V.I.P. sun deck. It really didn't look like a good place for a V.I.P. area, though... very exposed to the wind... since it was up high, and at the front of the ship.


Great shots, great review! By the way the Gold card access you show is actually a great area, really not windy at all for being so high. And you have attendants that come by every hour or so with cool wet towels for you and nice little "cool' treats and fruit for you also during the warmer hours of the day!....K.O.:)

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Odds & Ends


Now I'm just going to throw in a few random photos and observations that didn't seem to fit in anywhere else.


I was disappointed to see that there is no deck 13 on Allure Of The Seas. Superstition rears her ugly head again! Out of all the cruises we've been on, Norwegian Getaway was the only ship that didn't skip from deck 12 to deck 14. When I saw that, I thought it was pretty cool... because, really, I don't like the idea of 14th century superstitions dictating 21st century designs. But I'm pleased to report that Royal Caribbean has finally come out of the dark ages and has included a deck 13 on their newest ship, the Quantum Of The Seas.


Throughout the ship, you'll find some interesting artwork and art objects on display. One of the more unusual ones is this stereoscope... which looks a little bit like a robot, doesn't it?




What you do is look through the two round holes like you were using a pair of binoculars. You'll see a 3D image of the beautiful Walt Disney concert hall in Los Angeles. Seems like something you'd see on Disney cruise line, not Royal Caribbean, doesn't it?


Now I'm sure that you know that the Allure Of The Seas is one HUGE cruise ship... but have you ever thought about what happens when a huge cruise ship goes through a narrow harbor entrance? It causes some crazy waves! Take a look at this video I shot of the waves created by Allure Of The Seas as we sailed out of Ft Lauderdale:




Here's something I had never seen on a cruise ship before...

On the floor of the elevators, there's a little sign which alerts you to what day of the week it is!




I think that's a great idea, as during a 7-day vacation it is very easy to lose track of what day it is... since you're not in your normal routine. I'm curious... do they change these signs exactly at midnight... or wait until about 3 AM when everybody's asleep... or what? I never did find out the answer to that one.


After over 20 enjoyable cruises on Carnival, I do have to say that they could really learn a lesson from Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines on how to design a public restroom. The public restrooms on Carnival are tiny, cramped, and not at all stylish. They are utilitarian, and just have no class or pizzazz to them at all. The stalls are so uncomfortably tight that you wonder if some of the morbidly obese passengers you see on the ship could even fit in them. I really liked that the public restrooms on Allure Of The Seas were spacious and beautifully decorated. Well done, Royal Caribbean... and thank you.



One of the public restrooms on Allure Of The Seas


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Here's a video I shot on the very first day of the cruise, as we were sailing out of Ft Lauderdale. From our balcony, I enjoyed looking at all the million-dollar homes facing the harbor... so I shot some video of them as we sailed by:





This next picture is somewhat random! Central Park is very beautiful, especially at night. I was hanging around Central Park on formal night, and an attractive redhead in a black cocktail dress walked up to one of the bars all alone. The lighting was so interesting and the woman dressed so nice... I just had to snap a picture:





For those that like to get their exercise while cruising...

here's a picture of the jogging track, which goes all the way around deck 5:





If you need a band-aid during your cruise but you don't want to buy a full box of them in the gift shop, head down to the medical center on deck 5, where you'll find this little vending machine:



Be sure to bring at least two quarters!


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