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Big Ship Adventures Aboard The Allure of the Seas - Photo Review - WinksCruises

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Posted (edited)

Preface:

As with most things in life, when it comes to cruising, like most of her sex, Mrs. Winks has always followed the age-old adage, "size matters". Which is why she married me, of course! But it’s also the reason we’ve always shunned sailing on the new, mega-ships.

Make of that what you will.

 

If you’ve suffered through any of our previous trip reports, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that, when it comes to Mrs. Winks, scoring a good cruise deal trumps all. And in this instance, a cheap fare trumped even ship tonnage, apparently.

 

So imagine my anguish, a confirmed small-ship guy, who, about a year ago, was shaken awake from a particularly fine nap he was enjoying on his living room couch, by Mrs. Winks reporting, quite giddily, that she had just booked a cruise for us on the Allure of the Seas, and she knows we’re not big-ship people, and we both swore we’d never board a mega-ship, but she just couldn’t pass on the deal, and did she mention it’s one of those two-story loft suites? The one she’s always dreamt about, with the floor to ceiling windows? But we’re getting it for a steal! A real steal! and if you want, we can arrange with the concierge that you sit in one of the ship’s outside tenders, flanking the walking deck, so as to imagine you’re actually sailing on a smaller ship, like the Navigator or even Empress, if that will make you feel better about it, and isn’t this all so very exciting? Oh, and the room comes with free Wi-Fi!

 

I got welts from repeatedly pinching my arm, trying to wake myself from this horrendous nightmare. But alas, to no avail. Mrs. Winks whipped out her mobile phone and showed me the email confirmation, making sure I noted the additional $100 onboard credit she’d somehow weaseled out of our travel agent. And voila, awakened from my nap like some nautically-inclined version of Rip Van Winkle, I suddenly found myself a big-ship people. How does this stuff keep happening?

 

Thankfully, I had a year to psychologically ready myself.  But as I’ve learned the hard way; nothing can adequately ready you for the big ship experience.  Nothing…

So please let this tale stand as a warning to all you small-ship lovers. Put down that cocktail, slip on your life-preserver, and prepare for the mandatory safety drill. It’s time for:

 

 

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The Allure of the Seas docked in Roatan, Honduras

 

I’m buying less and less into this “arrive a couple of days early, before your cruise ship departs” maxim. We’ve always followed that recommendation religiously, like all Cruise Critic members worth their salt do, but the last two times, it didn’t end up mattering. We nearly missed our ship both those times! Be all the days early as you want; it really all comes down to the unforeseen circumstances that can transgress on embarkation day. That’s what you have to watch out for.

 

Living in New York, we usually fly Jet Blue to Florida, which unfortunately doesn’t service Miami, where the Allure sails from. So we flew into Ft. Lauderdale and crashed with Mrs. Winks’ sister for the weekend. She lives in Boca Raton and always agrees to schlep us down to the Port of Miami if we agree to get her boozed-up the night before. Of course, Mrs. Winks is the first to remind us, yes, it might be cheaper to take an Uber (have you seen how much Mrs. Winks’ sister can pack away?!), but it makes better long-term “money-sense” to stick close with family, minimally so we stay in any will, but ultimately, in hopes there’s a miraculous Powerball win.

 

So Sunday morning, we peel Mrs. Winks’ sister off the living room floor, cold shower her in the clothes she wore the night before, and pile her, and our bags, into the family’s SUV. It’s raining, pouring actually, but we’re getting a decent head start and should still be at the pier by 11 am. Or so we thought…

 

We drove only a few miles when traffic suddenly came to a complete stand-still.  Oh, you didn’t know? For some bizarre reason, the local authorities literally shut down I-95, a major US artery, for an annual Motorcycle Holiday Toy Drive! Each year, a week or so before Christmas, thousands of motorcycle riders, from all over the country, converge on Fort Lauderdale to deliver toys to some local children's hospital. Great, a tad schmaltzy, but it’s the holidays so I get it. But do you have to close down a major stretch of I-95, and part of I-595, between 9 am and noon, in the pouring rain, to do so!!?

 

We spent close to an hour just getting off I-95, but there’s no relief to the traffic congestion, as all the alternate roads heading south to Miami were now clogged with day-of cruise passengers commuting from both Fort Lauderdale and West Palm airports, NFL fans trying to get to the stadium for a 1 pm Miami Dolphins game, and numerous lost 18-wheeler truck drivers trying to negotiate unfamiliar side-streets, much too narrow for their big rigs. All during a torrential monsoon.

 

 

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They shut-down I-95 for a Holiday Toy Drive??!

 

The Reader’s Digest version, we ended up getting to the Port of Miami several hours later, closer to 2 pm. Needless to say, it was a very frustrating ride, as the hungover Mrs. Winks’ sister had to ford flooded roadways, in near zero visibility, through gridlocked intersections and some rather sketchy, if colorful, Miami neighborhoods, while Mrs. Winks and I both drained our cell phones trying to map out viable southbound routes using a synchronous partnering of GPS and the Waze traffic app.

 

I sure hope those blessed motorcyclists enjoyed delivering toys in that deluge, and screwing up the plans of thousands of Miami-bound motorists! Happy holidays!

 

So the moment we entered the Port of Miami property, the clouds miraculously part and the sun returned in all its glory. Our ordeal appeared to be over, until I was reminded that now we needed to deal with mega-ship check-in lines and boarding process. I’m scared and pinch myself again, in a last-ditch hope that I’m still napping on the couch, a year later. But I don’t wake up. I’m still living in a very real and very scary big-ship nightmare.

 

During our pre-cruise research, we’d read horror stories on Cruise Critic about the newly opened Cruise Ship Terminal A in Miami.  Construction traffic, erratically driven mud-caked dump trucks, poorly marked lanes and treacherous detours were all major points of derision. Thankfully, while it wasn’t exactly a picnic, we managed to follow the labyrinth of signs and arrows to the luggage drop-off at the new terminal fairly unscathed. I took some small comfort in the fact the cops directing port traffic were still ornery, yelling at us to pull-up here (not there!!!) – a reassuring sign we were in the right spot.   

 

A friendly porter greeted us and took our bags, we said goodbye to Mrs. Winks’ traumatized sister, who had to face an equally challenging ride back to Fort Lauderdale, and got ready to enter the spanking new, albeit infamous, Terminal A, and commence our big-ship adventure.

 

 

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Approaching the new terminal in Miami

 

 Most likely because we arrived at the port relatively late, check-in went especially smoothly. This might also be attributed to the fact that we were suite guests on this voyage, not merely Diamonds, and were directed to an express suite and pinnacle guest elevator that opened onto a nicely appointed lounge where we were greeted by a preppily dressed millennial, attached to an iPad, on which he took down a few particulars and who seemed to know us quite well already (probably familiar with our previous trip reports, I enjoyed conjecturing, but more likely because of the facial-recognition tech in use at the terminal).

 

The suite and pinnacle guest lounge was so inviting that when we were informed moments later we were free to board the ship, we almost didn’t want to go! The space was big and airy, filled with plush couches and intimate, cordoned seating areas, and there were several treat and beverage stations (sadly non-alcoholic). It had all the small ship appeal I was so desperately trying to cling to. When I asked him if we could stay, the preppy attendant gave us rolled-eyes, tucked the iPad under his arm, and walked away, visibly happy that his obligation to be nice to us was now over.

 

We left the sanctuary of the lounge and crossed over to the gangway entrance that’s located directly across the hall, joining waves of weary, war-torn, steerage class passengers who’d navigated the check-in process in some other distant and difficult space that we fortunately never had to set eyes on.

 

 

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Two Ways to Experience the new Terminal A

 

Before we board the Allure of the Seas and sink our teeth into the juicy, big-ship experience, and why we’ll probably never indulge in it again, we should probably address the Who, What and Whys of this cruise.

 

The ship is the Allure of the Seas, and Mrs. Winks had scored what she felt was the deal of a lifetime on a suite category she had always wanted to cruise in. The two-story sky lofts. I was just relieved it cost less than the Alaskan cruise we took earlier in the year, during the height of the summer season, because I’m still paying for that beer and reindeer dog combo meal I had in Icy Strait Point!

 

This was a 7-night cruise that took us first east, to the lawless frontier town of Nassau, Bahamas and then west, to drug-addled shores of Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico and third-world Roatan, Honduras, before returning to Miami. We set sail two weeks before Christmas, Dec 9 – 16, 2018, and given that timing, were surprised by how many school-aged children were on this cruise. “There are a lot of frugal parents out there,” Mrs. Winks was quick to remind me. “And this appears to be a cheap pre-holiday bargain cruise.”

 

We are Diamond level and this was our 12th cruise with Royal. We have also sailed Celebrity and Princess a bunch, but I am trying to get Mrs. Winks to focus on Royal, as we are within striking distance of D+, for what that’s worth. Since we had access to the Suite Lounge bar and amenities, we did not purchase a drink package, but we did sign-up, pre-cruise, for the 3-venue specialty dining package (a mistake, in my opinion, that I’ll expound on later). And we also secured a pre-paid photo package.

 

As for this trip report, it will be an unnecessarily long and pompously opinionated photo review, and it won’t come out in one push. My nerves are still understandably shaken from the whole experience, and it’s taken several gnarly therapy sessions just to get me in front of the computer to draft this post. It stemming from a vacation voyage, my therapist didn’t feel comfortable treating it as an actual medical condition, but some of you out there know it’s a very real phenomenon. PTCD. Post Traumatic Cruise Disorder. So please give me some time, as I battle anxiety and flashbacks, to relive for you this big-ship horror.

 

In addition, while I consider it pointless to do so, others seem to find great value in them, so we’ll post the now outdated daily Cruise Compasses and other noteworthy printed ephemera that end up in your stateroom over the course of a 7-night voyage.

 

And lastly, a word of warning to future cruisers. Wash your hands! Mrs. Winks contracted a vicious bronchial virus on the last days of this cruise, an early Xmas present she graciously re-gifted to me during the flight home. It’s no fun hacking up a lung over the holidays. And we both blame the kids who were running rampant all over the ship, and the close quarters we were forced into daily during crowded elevator rides, which were unavoidable given our stateroom was located on the 17th deck, one-stop above the always popular Windjammer Cafe.

 

 

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Our Embarkment Photo

 

Being late arrivals, we boarded an already active and buzzing ship. We generally like to board early, to get the most out of Day 1. Fortunately, the silver lining to boarding this late was the fact that the staterooms were already opened, so we didn’t have to lug around our carry-ons, weighed down by our two bottles of wine and assorted other contraband.

 

Missing the welcoming glass of champagne we’d grown accustomed to being handed upon boarding a Celebrity cruise, we gave the massive Royal Promenade a quick look and then made our way directly up to our Sky Loft up on Deck 17. No small task on boarding day, where everyone is racing around trying to explore all their options or attend spa raffle giveaways.

We arrived on the suite floor, and what can I tell you? Sometimes size DOES matter. At least when it comes to stateroom space. Both Mrs. Winks and I agree, the sky loft was the best suite we’ve ever stayed in. Very spacious, and the two-levels help to cut down on that cabin fever that invariably creeps in, even in the largest of single-level staterooms.

 

We’ll explore the loft suite in more depth during a later post, but just figure we’d get that out of the way. Not that there weren’t a couple of shortcomings, but overall, it was the best accommodations we’ve ever had at sea.

 

Our luggage arrived shortly thereafter. No trip to the “bad boy room” this time, even though Mrs. Winks had inadvertently packed an electrical strip (the non-surge protector type, so don’t get your panties in a knot!) in one bag. We quickly unpacked, me assuming the storage space and bathroom downstairs while Mrs. Winks commandeered the upstairs spaces. We wanted to grab a quick Windjammer lunch before muster, which was less than an hour away.

 

 

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The Spacious Sky Loft Suite on Allure of the Seas

 

Next up: First Day Cruise Compass and other papers. Then a closer look at our cabin and our Miami sail away.

 

Edited by WinksCruises
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Posted (edited)

Point A:  You will get zero sympathy from us regarding your initial resistance to this cruise. Wah wah wah!! Don't care.

Point B:  Mrs. Winks is cute.  Little bit of a girl crush already, not going to lie.

Point 😄 THAT. SUITE.  Don't have words, dude. Just sitting here gaping.

Point D:  Thanks for bringing us along.  Oasis class is incredible. Even from steerage (Deck 10 inside).

Edited by KmomChicago

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, driftersdream said:

I can't wait to read more!

Thank you for your kind readership and patience!

 

1 hour ago, KmomChicago said:

Point A:  You will get zero sympathy from us regarding your initial resistance to this cruise. Wah wah wah!! Don't care.

1
1

 

I'm not sure how you can have so little sympathy for me and my plight, but I will find it in my heart to forgive you... somehow. 😛     Namaste. 🙏

Edited by WinksCruises
Trying to get rid of the #1s in the Kmom quote block...

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Here is the Day 1 Cruise Compass from this itinerary.

Also down below are the welcome letter from the Diamond Concierge with amenities list,

And the current perks loaded onto our Sea Pass Cards.

(I can post some Kids & Teens Activity flyers if there is interest, just be sure to wash your hands before and after reading!)

 

These docs (and the pictures from this review) are best viewed on a monitor or tablet. Sorry cell phone folks.

 

NEXT UP: A closer look at the Sky Loft

 

 

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CruiseCompass_Day1-4.jpg

CruiseCompass_Day1-5.jpg

CruiseCompass_Day1-6.jpg

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Following along as I get ready to board Allure a week from today! I, too, was lured away from the small ships by a good deal on this city at sea, so I'll be interested to hear how your experience goes (although I will sail in the relative steerage of an ordinary Oceanview cabin).

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Thank you for this topic.  We have one of these suites booked for the 11-20 TA.  I'm enjoying the pictures especially.  

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I was on this cruise with you, but In a lowly ocean view balcony. I happen to love Allure and it was my 3rd time on this beautiful ship. Looking forward to the rest of your review. 

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Posted (edited)

 Mrs. Winks just now chided me for neglecting to include a picture of the Suite/Pinnacle check-in lounge in the first post. It would be nice, she suggested, to give “those poor people in steerage a little something to aspire to. A motivational image of us that they could pin to their vision boards, to serve as a daily inspiration for them,” she decreed rather tactlessly.

 

I remarked that I’d probably recalled the entire experience more romantically than it’d actually been and a photo would be at minimum a letdown and worse case, call into credibility the worthiness of their trip review blogger.

 

Bearing all this in mind, then, here’s a montage showing what the Suite/Pinnacle check-in lounge at Terminal A looked like.

 

 

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Okay so back to the ship and our stellar accommodations…

 

As is custom when we first enter a new stateroom, Mrs. Winks insists we hide our carry-ons in the closet so she can photograph the cabin in a pristine state, before we start pigging it up with all the bottles of alcohol we’ve smuggled onboard, wet bathing suits and the stray undergarment.

 

In researching this cruise, Mrs. Winks had been a bit disappointed by the several video walkthroughs of this cabin she’d watched online, claiming they didn’t show enough of the room features or were too shaky or self-indulgent to be of any use. So she decided to tape one herself.

 

Some of you may have watched us do this video live, because we uploaded a number of video clips to our Instagram Stories accounts (@WinksCruises and @MrsWinksCruises) over the course of the voyage. FYI, Instagram is truly the best way to keep-up with our cruise adventures, as they happen. And the best part is, when we’re not cruising, the accounts are dormant, so we won’t clog your Instagram feed with useless posts. So if you have an Instagram account, we invite you to follow us. (And while our Instagram Story clips disappeared after 24-hours, you can still check out a bunch of photos from this cruise by viewing our gallery of pictures there).

 

Fortunately, some videos from the cruise were saved to our cell phones. So here is Mrs. Winks doing her walkthrough of the lower level of our two-story suite.  This is Crown Loft 1710 on Allure of the Seas.

 

 

 

We both agreed that the size of the balcony was a little disappointing, having been spoiled by wraparound and aft cabin balconies on previous trips. And as you heard on the video, the balcony door could use a good shot of WD-40.

 

That said, we did like being on deck 17, the highest point on the ship, and didn’t notice any increase swaying or motion because of it.

 

One of the amenities Mrs. Winks didn’t show in that video was the downstairs closet, which was located just as you enter the cabin, tucked underneath the stairwell. It had more than enough room for my wardrobe, and I could fit my large suitcase into an out-of-view nook space in the back.

 

Another handy feature was the downstairs bathroom, which offers a shower, sink and toilet. The couch pulls out to a bed, so 4 people could live in this space pretty comfortably, especially if each sticks to their individual levels.

 

The downstairs bathroom did have some peculiar drawbacks.  The water in the shower and faucet would get scalding-hot real fast, so you had to test it before jumping in. And when you ran the bathroom sink faucet, you could hear a loud draining sound emanating from the shower stall that was a little disconcerting.

 

Also, later in the week, I noticed a small patch of carpet by the cabin entrance was moist.  I suspect one of the bathroom water feeds is slow leaking over there, and meant to tell the room steward, but forgot to. Boo me.

 

 

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Continuing to the upper level of the loft, below is Mrs. Winks’ walkthrough video of that. 

 

One problem on the bedroom level was, on some nights, you could hear the wind blowing, as if the cabin wasn’t totally sealed. Interestingly enough, you could only hear this upstairs; downstairs it was dead quiet.

 

Another challenge was controlling the window drapes from upstairs.  The switches there didn’t work, so opening and closing the drapes could only be successfully managed from the wall unit located downstairs.

 

The upstairs bathroom featured three separate shower heads, one being a rain shower. And Mrs. Winks and I were both surprised that there was no actual bathtubs in either of the bathrooms. You typically get a bathtub in a suite.

 

We didn’t try hooking them up, but it looked like the USB ports to both televisions were accessible. The TV upstairs retracts into the ceiling and hangs at the foot of the bed, but there were no instructions or apparent switches to swing the monitor back into the ceiling, so it stayed hanging-out all week.

 

 

 

 

 

Mrs. Winks very much enjoyed the vanity on the upper level, especially the lighting and space it provided, commodities not always as user friendly in other cabins we’ve stayed in.

 

There is only one room safe available, and it’s located in the upstairs closet. No safe downstairs that we could find.

 

Even though it hangs suspended over the living area below, the bedroom platform is rock solid and affords great views through the floor-to-ceiling windows. It was only a problem one morning when we woke up, in port, next to the new mega-ship, the Celebrity Edge, and people could see in!

 

 

 

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While Mrs. Winks enjoyed her vanity, I enjoyed the desk downstairs, though it was a little odd to maneuver since it was on casters and could be pushed up against the wall to free up side-shelf and floor room.

 

The two plastic chairs behind the desk also seemed a bit chintzy and out of place, but I enjoyed playing concierge-in-training trying to diplomatically deny Mrs. Winks’ increasingly challenging demands.

 

The desk was also useful for sorting out room service deliveries, using our tablets, and jotting down notes for this review.

 

 

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Next Up:  Night #1 - The Suite Lounge v Diamond Lounge and Specialty Dining at Chops.

 

Edited by WinksCruises
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Can't wait for the rest of the story about the Petri Dish of the Seas. 

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Posted (edited)

 

 

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We had never attended a muster so large. As per usual, we arrived late (it’s Mrs. Winks’ twisted way – she thinks - of sticking it to the man). So it was already standing room only at the Aqua Theater, which was our assembly station on this voyage. Many others, we noticed, simply checked-in with the attendance-takers and then milled about the Boardwalk area, oblivious to the safety announcements being made (which we also noticed focused more on Passenger Code of Conduct issues than on how to actually survive an emergency at sea).

 

Mrs. Winks and I agreed with consternation just how difficult accessing this muster point would be during an actual emergency, from the 17th deck no less, given the size, age, physical fitness and sobriety of the crowd. It had me questioning how well one of these super-ships would handle a disaster at sea, having adopted their safety template from plans designed for much smaller craft, nearly a century ago.

 

So we stood there, with our backs up against the rear theater wall, as our fellow disinterested prisoners, uh,  passengers, anxious to get their vacations started, in various states of intoxication, were watching, with mixed levels of interest, Royal’s tongue-in-cheek, spy-themed safety video, “Operation Little Bear”, as it played-back on the two large screens bookending the stage.

 

During the proceedings, another outbound cruise ship sailed by (we were just able to glimpse the whale tale above the theater’s railing as it passed), further distracting the assembly from some rather important messaging about excessive alcohol consumption followed by a promotion that it was not still too late to purchase the ultimate beverage package.

 

All in all, it was the typical s-show that muster has sadly devolved into, made only worse by these incredibly high passenger volumes. When is some authoritative body going to address, and revamp, the safety drill process? We’re all for safety first. But today’s muster drills are a joke when it comes to either safety or efficacy.

 

 

 

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Some forty minutes or so after muster, we finally had access to an elevator, squeezed in, and headed back to our stateroom. Sadly, by that time, we had already missed most of sail away - having spent the entire time battling the egressing crowds. Salvaging it as best we could, Mrs. Winks quickly cracked open the lukewarm bottle of cheap champagne our travel agent had gifted us, and we bolted out to the balcony to wave goodbye to the gathered masses at South Beach, now disbanded and several nautical miles away.

 

With the Miami skyline falling over the horizon, we returned from the balcony and hastily changed out of our embarkment wear. Theoretically, we had dinner reservations at a specialty restaurant that night, but since we had pre-purchased a specialty dining 3-pack, the first night’s restaurant was, inexplicably, up to the grand wizards at Royal Caribbean to choose. Like what??

 

We figured our best bet was to get to the Suite Lounge and talk to our concierges, lest we get stuck at the sushi place on our first night. Armed with our Sea Pass cards for gaining entry, we headed down the hall to the lounge, which was conveniently located on our deck.

 

 

 

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It was the largest suite lounge we’d ever been in, besting in size even Diamond lounges on other ships, which was an odd feeling for us, since, in the past, we’ve only had to fight a few other couples to be the center of attention. What was this suddenly?  It was clear that on Allure, we’d need to employ a publicist and social media director if we ever hoped to garner any attention, and even then it wouldn’t necessarily be guaranteed!

 

Plusses of the lounge were, there was a large, well-appointed bar that was manned from 11 am to 11 pm. And you could always get a couple of bottles of water there, a nice touch before heading off the ship or off to the cabin for bed. Our two concierges, Nancy and Junior were affable and competent. The space is beautiful, spacious and never felt crowded. The hors d'oeuvres satisfactory and the staff exemplary.

 

Some drawbacks, though, the room was maybe too spacious, not allowing for that forced intimacy that pushes you to interact with fellow passengers and the concierges. It was too easy to sequester yourself away from the rest, which of course I ate up willingly, but still detracted from the typical lounge experience.

 

At times large family groups (gangs I would call them) and those with very young children would invade the lounge, disturbing the otherwise chill ambiance with their loud and demanding presence. And their viral bacterium.

 

Another major downer was the lounge overlooked the kids' pools, not the worst thing in and of itself, since those areas were generally closed or lightly used during the evening, but during breakfast or before sunset, I found having to watch the swirling pool, the cesspool I called it, rather distracting.

 

All in all, though, the Suite Lounge was a welcome sanctuary. The expanded hours of operation were a welcome amenity that made up for the loss of closeness you get in smaller ship concierge lounges.

 

We spoke to our concierge Junior and he was more than happy to make a Chops reservation for our first night of the dining package, and managed to position it accordingly so we could still make the comedy show we had reservations for.

 

Several of the ship’s officers were also in attendance, making the rounds and introducing themselves to the guests.  It’s here we met the ship’s shopping guide, Michael, who was funny and charming, but like all salesmen, a bit of a shark. We’ll have a funny story to tell about him later, but he made a good first impression when we met him in the lounge.

 

We had a drink or two, met our bartender and concierges, confirmed our dinner reservation and then, since it seemed rather quiet in the Suite Lounge, decided to check out the Diamond Lounge and see if that might be a venue we’d end up spending more time in.  I know, you can stop laughing now. For some reason, I thought it might be different on a big ship…

 

 

 

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The Diamond Lounge was your typical zoo. Packed with an assortment of family groups, Cruise Critic cliques, Meet and Mingle wannabees, the Crypts and the Bloods and several professional hors d'oeuvre hounds. We blew by the gatekeeper, not needing to show our credentials, and entered the noisy foray looking for a place to sit, but if anything, these Diamonds know how to set up camp for the long haul. There’s no turnover. Until the bar stopped serving at 8 pm, no one here was going anywhere!

 

We finally found a small cocktail table that had been hastily set-up blocking a service entrance, of all places. Clearing it of a couple of cocktail glasses and shrimp tails wrapped in napkins, we sat down, wondering why we’d ever left the sanctuary of the Suite Lounge.

 

Mrs. Winks went over to inspect the buffet station where she found several exhausted servers futilely attempting to replenish the serving trays before the endless line of revelers could devour each round of refreshments. And while the selections had been completely picked through, she came back reporting it appeared to be exact same spread they’d had up at the Suite Lounge, so food wasn’t going to be a deciding factor in this horse race.

 

A server, pallid from fatigue and stress, forced a smile and took our drink order. We sat back and people watched, but it was nothing more than an archipelago of self-obsessed masses, plotting their next round of independent shore excursions and bitching about one perk policy change or another. It was pretty funny, actually.

 

Michael, the shopping host, stopped by and managed to catch himself before completely re-introducing himself to us again. Our drinks arrived, but I don’t think we even finished them. The bar was shutting down and a mass exodus began. We had our dinner reservations at Chops, so for the second time that day, we threw ourselves to the mercy of the moving crowd and were carried out of the Diamond Lounge and deposited when the mass broke into several directions. It was our first and only visit there.

 

 

 

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Our last several visits to specialty dining steakhouses at sea had been pretty average, so we didn’t cross the transom at Chops with high expectations. Things didn’t start well, with our clearly green server informing us they were out of asparagus and then reporting they were also out of the bottle of Franciscan Merlot I’d just ordered. On the spot, I picked a more expensive Cabernet, which ended up being delightful, despite my now having a sour taste from these two service misses.

 

Then, of course, we watched as a glistening plate of grilled asparagus was served to the table next to us. Our server backtracked and explained that it is actually broccoli they were out of, not asparagus. Her bad.

 

Despite all this, Mrs. Winks and I had a fine dinner. The steaks were on point and the desserts, heavenly. The “shareable” sides continue to be rather small portions and tend to get cold quickly. But all in all, it was a nice dinner, as we started to laugh at these and the day’s other big-ship mishaps and settle into cruise mode.

 

 

 

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Next up: Surviving R. Nassau

 

 

Edited by WinksCruises
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We go on Allure in October for two weeks OMG.

Fascinating read so far.

Thank you

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Excellent review!  Enjoying the read, especially since I also have avoided the "big ship"  so far and I have just booked our first one on the Allure in November.  Very interested in the rest of your review.

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Posted (edited)

 

 

05_01_Header.jpg

Vegas icon Earl Turner performing at the Amber Theater on the Allure

 

 

 

 

Sometime after Halloween, but well before Thanksgiving, Mrs. Winks was sitting on our living room couch on a Sunday afternoon, pretending to be interested in the Jets game we were watching, though clearly pre-occupied with something on her laptop. Suddenly she looked up and announced, “Done. We have all our reservations made.”

 

I physically jolted up from my repose, worried she had now gone and booked us on Symphony of the Seas or something.

 

“No, no, not another cruise,” she reassured me. “Though that’s not a bad idea. But no, I just reserved all our shows on the Allure.”

 

“Our shows on the Allure? You have to reserve them?” I queried noobishly. “This far in advance?” It was too unfathomable for my small-ship mind to wrap itself around.

 

“Of course, silly Winks, otherwise you could miss out. Let’s see. We have Comedy Live the first night, Mama Mia the second, then the AquaTheater Show proper, Hiro, the Ice Games Ice Skating Show, The new Fine Line extravaganza at AquaTheater, Oceanaria, the other Ice Skating Show… it’s for kids, but it has drones… and the Port Shopping Show.”

 

“You made a reservation for the Port Shopping Show?”

 

“If we want to be in the drawing for the Tanzanite Teardrop Pendant, hell yeah! These people are animals!”

 

So chalk-up another negative mark for cruising the big-ships. So many entertainment-starved passengers, so few theater seats.

 

I can just picture them back at the conference table at RCCL headquarters scheming, “Let’s create a Ticketmaster of the Seas model where we first hook them on making show reservations, then follow-up with selling them actual tickets, at which time a secondary scalper market will materialize organically, and we’ll take 10% of that.” “20%!” “Better yet.” “Payday!”

 

It seems to be working. When we arrived at the Comedy Live club to watch a 10:30 pm 18+ cabaret show, there was a long line of passengers on a standby cue. “I’ve got an extra!” I shouted and I was quickly surrounded by emaciated comedy fans, desperately looking for a fix, and the club’s bouncer who didn’t appreciate the comedic disruption. (Ironic, right?)

 

“Do you have a ticket, sir?” he demanded.

 

“Why of course I do,” I quipped. “Mrs. Winks made our reservations 10-weeks ago!”

 

Despite the speakeasy vibe of the venue and the hipness associated with being out so late (10:30) on the first night, the comedy show itself was fairly lackluster.  A few laughs for sure, but both comedians dwelled on the horrors of getting old. Join the club. Couldn’t they just stick to the “you people are still hungry?” and “my cabin shower curtain attacked me” jokes?

 

I actually have been meaning to write the female comedian, Nora Lynch, about her little testicular cancer routine. Not only was it factually incorrect, as someone who works with an influencer trying to make a difference in that field, it was pretty offensive.  And it’s not like I offend easy. Cough, cough.

 

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The Comedy Live showroom and comedian, Phil Palisoul, doing his “I’m getting old” bit.  

 

I know, I’m supposed to be reviewing our port stop at Nassau right about now. (Spoiler alert, we actually got off the ship). But this morning I remembered that I’d neglected to cover the first evening’s comedy show, which got me all riled-up about the show reservations thing, watching the aging icon Earl Turner later in the week and the fiasco the whole entertainment-at-sea industrial complex has become.  So forgive me while I shoot off on this tangent. I’ll offer a vague promise to come back tomorrow with details of that Nassau Bahamas horror show.

 

Long story short, after all the pre-planning, we didn’t end up seeing the Mamma Mia show.  Shocker. Those who know us, we’re not really show people.  We’re from NY.  So I sold the tickets to go buy scratch offs in the casino.

 

We also didn’t attend the AquaTheater show, in any of its incarnations, and only attended the one Ice Games ice skating show, which only validated my trepidation of high-seas entertainment as I sat, holding my head, trying to fathom how they ever thought dedicating a 45-minute skating show to old board games was a good idea.

 

Disappointed in us? Don’t be. If you really want to see the AquaTheater show, here it is in a nutshell.  Don’t blink.

 

 

We actually shot that footage during the Top Tier welcome back party, held the sea day in the AquaTheater, where they previewed the aquatics as some sort of enticement, I guess, to attend the evening show. For us, though, it had the opposite effect. We basically “got it”, thanks to this sneak preview, and once again, bailed on our reservations (the show actually ended up getting canceled that night due to rough seas, anyway.)

 

In the end, about the only real entertainment I enjoyed on the ship was watching people fight over newly delivered trays of fried chicken in the Windjammer and the daily viewing of The Morning Show with Jimmy and Flavio on our stateroom television. They were hopelessly kitschy and suffered from that lack of chemistry you’ll occasionally see between the cruise director and their assistant.

 

05_04_MorningShow.jpg

Cruise Director Jimmy with his sidekick Flavio hosting the Morning Show

 

That’s it for now. We’ll be back shortly with our thoughts on our first port of call, Nassau. Is it the lawless Wild West frontier town that everyone claims it is, that cruise companies are threatening to boycott and Homeland Security has put on the travelers’ advisory list, or just a boring port that once you’ve seen once, there’s no reason to revisit? Plus a special sail away from the heliport.

 

In the meantime, thank you for following this trip report and providing words of support. We know it takes time to read through this drivel, and both Mrs. Winks and I appreciate your effort, patience and stick-to-it-ness. Hang in there. Trust me, it gets worse.

 

 

05_05_PunchBoard.jpg

Punch Board fun on the Allure's Boardwalk

Edited by WinksCruises
Formatting issues

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You're a lot of fun overall but ultimately sort of unclassifiable, aren't you, Mr. Winks?  As a lowly peasant, I'm immensely enjoying tagging along with your grumbles and misadventures up there in the rarified air, far, so far, from your overpacked muster station (good luck when the sirens blast).  I especially like how you validate my lowball, carefully managed frugal budgetary cruise style.  Never will we reach the higher echelons of any loyalty program.  We simply can't take that many cruises, but probably more importantly, we ain't loyal.  

 

I have a short attention span and usually am more interested in moving on to the next shiny object.  Then add some insult to that basic injury and ask what the point would be?  So you can cram into some noisy lounge?  The point of those lounges is to keep You People out of the peasant lounges, which are often much less crowded, thankyouverymuch.  So I can get free appetizers?  Thank you, I can schlep down to the Promenade Café 24/7 and nosh on sufficient morselry if the other seven (included) meals of the day were not adequate.

 

Thanks also for the photo showing Those Gemstone People are actually not better humans than myself, which I had erroneously assumed.  Richer, smarter, fancier, slimmer, prettier, glamorouser, and far more refined and sophisticated than we plebs.  I'll just keep walking past that door on the way to my (reserved) seat in the comedy club - which yes, is much too small for a ship of this size.

 

Waiting impatiently for the promised "worse" to come.

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Great pictures.  Looking forward to the rest of your review.

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Love the nod to David Bowie. Three years tomorrow since his untimely passing.

Your reference to the Windjammer chicken has just brought back awful memories of our only RCCL cruise aboard IOTS.

Why did I agree to go on Allure next October????? 

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