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

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I am loving your review! We are sailing on the Allure on the 13th and it will be our first mega ship as well.  I appreciate your sense of humor and your perspective. Thank you!

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"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."

 

Answer to your question; one of these super-ships would be an absolute cluster you know what in a real disaster.  Heck, the Costa Concordia (take a look at the YouTube videos) floundered a stones throw from shore and nearly 3 dozen died.  But then again nothing ever goes wrong these days; right?  Until it does. I can see the suites and D+ demanding the first life boats while enquiring where the Butler was with their luggage, leaving the rest of us on deck as the ship sunk (maybe the reggae band would keep playing as a nod to Titanic)….

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On 1/8/2019 at 1:01 AM, WinksCruises said:

 

 

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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

 

 

They will bring you as many sides as you like. No charge. 

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Our Day in Nassau - Crime Capital of the Bahamas!

 

Before stepping off the ship in Nassau, you should understand one thing; the U.S. Department of State rates the tourism threat-level of this island paradise as “critical”, with pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, armed-robberies, shootouts, beheadings, and over-priced cocktails, topping the list of crimes tourists report most frequently. They go on to advise U.S. citizens to just stay on the ship.

 

They didn’t need to tell us twice. An epic shore excursion like this sounded much more challenging than climbing the rock wall (kid’s stuff) or losing our swim trunks on the FlowRider (amateur) back on the ship, and best of all, it was free!  So after letting our room steward know he could have all the booze bottles hidden in our empty suitcases under the bed should we not return, we headed down to the gangway where we used the powerful Suite Guest / Diamond Level double-punch to cut the line (there were four people ahead of us) to be the first onto Prince George Wharf - or “back in the hood”, as I kidded Mrs. Winks.

 

But back up a moment. If you have read our previous reviews, you know it’s always been a dream of mine to sail an entire itinerary without ever getting off the ship, not even once. To me, the hassles of getting to and from those overrated, costly and crowded shore destinations are a vacation buzz-kill both in terms of time wasted and stress endured. The ship is the destination, in my book, so why not take full advantage of it?  Even if it’s a big ship you’re not exactly thrilled being on. Mrs. Winks, of course, begs to differ. She’s a day-resort beach addict and always wants to disembark when we port.

 

So wouldn’t you just know it? On this trip, Mrs. Winks said she’d had enough of Nassau from past cruises, was up on the latest crime stats, and was more than happy to stay on board.

 

And miss out on all the beheadings? I wouldn’t have it. Tossing a dream-come-true into the trash, I informed Mrs. Winks not only were we getting off the ship in Nassau, we were going to walk the city streets and even travel “over the hill.”  Over the hill, in State Department geopolitical terms, was a Nassau forbidden zone. Tourists were explicitly told not to go there. Day or night. “Oh that’s just an urban legend made up by the Diamonds International execs to keep people downtown,” I assured her. “The State Department’s totally in on it.”

 

So off we went, sidestepping the maze of aggressive vendors lining the pier-side straw-market and out onto the mean streets of Nassau.

 

And here was the first shady character we ran into… Welcome to Nassau!

 

 

 

 

Coming off ths ship, I actually did have a plan. In a history book club I attend back in New York, we learned about an eccentric Scottish-born aristocrat named John Murray, a British loyalist during the American Revolution, who, after royally screwing-up as Governor of Virginia, eventually escaped to the Bahamas where he continued his swarmy schemes, illegal land grabs and crooked side-hustles.

 

Not a big fan of slaves or the growing abolitionist movement, he ordered a passageway and 66 steps be carved out of limestone rock to connect the city with an unnecessary military fort he’d built on Bennet’s Hill (of the “over the hill” fame) overlooking the harbor. He ordered 600 African slaves, equipped with only hand tools and pickaxes, many of whom perished in the grueling 16-year process, to chisel out the long and deep grotto.

 

The result was The Queen’s Staircase, named a century after its completion to honor Queen Victoria who outlawed slavery in the Bahamas. Poor racist ole Lord Dunmore must have rolled over in his grave!

 

In all numerous visits to Nassau, I’d somehow missed hearing about this historic site. It was within walking distance of the ship, albeit a good hike, so that was our first stop, and it was incredible.

 

 

 

 

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 The Queen's Staircase - hand chiseled by 600 slaves for your selfie pleasure...

 

The interesting thing was, and admittedly it was a bit of a letdown, we were neither accosted or stabbed or beheaded once during our journey. And at one point, overshooting the side street that leads to the Queen’s Staircase and getting lost, a passerby greeted us with a “Good morning” and when we asked, went out of his way to get us redirected and back on track. Jeeze, I’d only asked him, hoping he’d pull a knife on me or something.

 

There is no admission charge at the staircase; it’s still a public passageway. But unofficial guides will give you the site’s history if you tip them a few bucks, and our guide was superlative, especially when he learned I had a little background of John Murray (Lord Dunmore as he was known when he governed the Bahamas), so he didn’t give us the sugar-coated version of the story, going on to explain, in rather brutal terms, what a twisted, nutcase Dunmore was.

 

It was sobering to walk through this veritable canyon and know it was hand chiseled with the most primitive of tools (on purpose, our guide explained, because Dunmore had a personal vendetta against slaves). After the history lesson, we climbed the fabled staircase and headed up to Fort Fincastle (another one of Lord Dunmore’s follies) that overlooks the harbor and city below, granting spectacular views. It’s also the site of a giant water tower that was built with funds gifted by the U.S. as a thank you for Nassau’s role in storing illegal bootlegged liquor during U.S. prohibition. (Now there’s a story!)

 

Unfortunately, the water tower is closed to the public, which is too bad since there is a staircase inside that can take you another hundred feet above the island, for even more incredible views. There were some street vendors, bathrooms and a formal gift shop where I picked up some neat 3-D lenticular postcards featuring several Nassau sites.

 

 

 

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The Water Tower on Bennet's Hill

 

Leaving Fort Fincastle and old city water tower, we had to face our biggest challenge of all; getting to the Nassau post office. Bahama stamps are some of the most colorful and collectible in the world. And I was on the hunt for the new Prince Harry and Meghan Markle wedding stamp that I could use on postcards to the folks back home.

 

But getting to the post office would mean going “over the hill” and it was closing in on noontime, when crooks and street ruffians finally wake up from their evening of gangbanging and beheadings, so we needed to hurry.

 

Admittedly, over the hill was a little scruffier than the parts of Nassau we were used to seeing.  The sidewalks, when there were any, were crumbling, the houses more shabby, and chickens, feral cats and other wildlife roamed the streets without a care. People gave us questioning stares, wondering what we were doing on this side of the ridge.

 

By this time, my makeshift shore excursion was beginning to wear on Mrs. Winks, who was not pleased with the change of neighborhoods. This beach girl hadn’t signed up for a gritty, backstreets tour of the Gotham City of the Caribbean. So I knew I needed to sweeten the pot somehow. After scoring stamps at the post office, where the clerk laughed at me when I asked, on average, how long postcards take to get to the U.S. (“On average, never, sweetheart” was her hardened response), Mrs. Winks accused me of being lost and said we should jump into a cab and get back to the ship.

 

Granted, the streets became more maze-like and uninviting. One person I asked for directions totally ignored me. But fortunately, I’d done my pre-cruise homework, and knew the end of the rainbow was in sight. Breaking all State Department guidelines, I pulled out my cellphone and used valuable data to turn on GPS to live-guide us to our ultimate destination: the John Watling Rum Distillery.

GPS brought us back onto the hill, past a busy intersection that we risked our lives crossing, and finally to a beautiful, palm-tree framed 18th-century mansion, the home of the distillery.

 

 

 

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The grounds of the John Watling Rum Distillery

 

An old fellow greeted us at the door with a tray of little Dixie cups filled with dollops of frozen Pina Colada. “Now you can take the house tour,” he explained. “That begins in 15-minutes. But most people like to just belly-up to the bar and have another delicious selection of our fine rums.”

 

He didn’t have to twist Mrs. Winks’ arm. She beelined right into dark, wood-paneled bar and ordered a round of the Pina Coladas before I could say I’d rather sample a rum flight. No worries. The bartender was a happy fellow who had no problem topping our frozen concoctions with gratis rum floaters. We took our drinks out onto the veranda and celebrated making it through the mean streets of Nassau alive (so far, anyway).

 

While we never ended up taking the facility tour (I’d already read on TripAdvisor that it was no big whoop – they don’t even distill the rum there!), we enjoyed our really tasty drinks from a vantage point overlooking the well-manicured grounds.

 

The run was great and we highly recommend the tour… that is, if you ever get off the ship in Nassau.

 

After finishing our Coladas, we stumbled off the grounds and took a single main road back to downtown. There we window-shopped a little, but ended up at a bar right on the harbor overlooking the docked cruise ships.  Here, while Mrs. Winks switched over to local beer, I kept the rum ball rolling with another Pina Colada served in a coconut. I could tell right away the rum was not as good as the stuff we had at the distillery. But the view of people milling about the waterfront street was priceless.

 

We got back to the ship, miraculously in one piece, and rushed back to the room to change for our special heliport sail away.  This was a suite guest only event, and I momentarily grew quite concerned that given the number of suite guests on the Allure, the ship might nose dive into the waterway!

 

Accessing the heliport through a doorway in the front of the Amber Theater, we were greeted with glasses of champagne, the cruise director and a group of ship’s officers. We chatted with the head of housekeeping and the provisions manager (I mentioned the out-of-stock asparagus/broccoli at Chops the night before, and he told me that was impossible, he had re-provisioned both in Miami!)

 

We hobnobbed with other suite guests, regaling them with an embellished story of our street fight encounters out in Nassau, and how they had been so wise to stay within the protective umbrella of the ship.  The Captain blared his horn and the Allure headed out of New Providence, at which point, the heliport got extremely windy and cold and everyone headed back inside.

 

 

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Suite Guests gather on the Heliport for Sail Away

 

PS:  So as I write this, I am messaging back-and-forth with a fellow member of these Cruise Critic forums, Canadian Tyler, who is currently locked in his cabin aboard the Oasis of the Seas, because he and his wife Ema, and 165 other passengers aboard, have all come down with the dreaded norovirus and are under quarantine. Stuck in their cabins only a few days into their 7-nighter. This being their first big-ship cruise, as well.

 

Of course, noro can strike any size cruise ship. But you can only imagine the impact it has when it strikes the highly populated mega-ships. The Petri Dishes of the Seas.  Just saying.  Thoughts and prayers, Tyler and Ema.  Thoughts and prayers….

 

Next Up: Our Meet and Mingle and Day at Sea

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by WinksCruises
Formatting issues

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And here are some bonus shots from our day adventure in Nassau:

 

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As you can see, violence-inciting graffiti is also a problem here. This was spray-painted on the entrance to a children's hospital...

 

 

 

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A reverse angle on the Queen's Staircase showing how long and deep the passageway is.

The site is actually quite peaceful and cool, despite its lurid history...

 

 

 

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This is the gift shop at the John Watling distillery and Mrs. Winks outside enjoying her Pina Colada...

 

 

 

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Back in town, at a bar overlooking the harbor (with my coconut Pina Colada), and the Allure docked at Prince George Wharf...

 

 

 

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The entire cast & crew of the Allure Heliport Production of Mamma Winka: Here We Cruise Again.

 

 

 

 

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 Deep thoughts as we sail away from Nassau...

 

 

Thanks for viewing!  We'll be back soon. Probably Friday, with more adventures including Roatan, Honduras.

 

PS: Please don't quote our entire post if you leave a comment. It's annoying to everyone...

 

 

 

Edited by WinksCruises

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Great review- am enjoying immensely! We’ll be in Nassau in March and now I’m actually excited about getting off the ship. This is the first time hearing about the staircase, thank you!

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We'll be back with more fresh content, tomorrow. Follow us to make sure you don't miss out on all the debauchery.

 

For now, here's the Compass from Day 2, plus the Show and Bingo Schedules.

Again, these are from Allure a month ago. Your cruise will differ...

 

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NEXT UP: Our Meet and Mingle and Day at Sea

 

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Thanks for the shout out, Winks.

I am very sorry to hear your suite with two storeys and three showerheads didn't have a tub!

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Following along, looking forward to more reports and photos.

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Gosh darnit, Winks, you've got me wondering at my disdain of Nassau. In spite of good experiences at Ardastra Gardens, Atlantis resort back when they would let anyone in to drop a few quarters into their casino (even renowned ruffian Kmom), and much more recently at Fort Charlotte, the Pirate Museum, and the Pompey Museum, I keep saying I'm through with that place.  It's really just because of that aggravating initial gauntlet upon debarking.  Nobody ever tries to hurt me!  But then, you know, some tourists give off that don't-try-it-sucka vibe.  No doubt people with names like Winks.  Had to learn it myself some time back, in order to wander the notorious urban jungle nearest to my home.

 

Even still, deeply grateful you survived to tell your tale of braving the meanest of mean streets.  Not to mention your snooty pants helipad exclu-suite-ivity-ness or whatever we are watching you all do down there.  I like that show schedule grid too. I don't remember anything like that on Oasis, and since we were there largely for such entertainment, had to figure it out using paper, pencils, and stick figures.

Edited by KmomChicago

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Looking forward to more -- boarding ourselves in 9 days ...

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thank you so much for your review! I am still reading it, though. Very funny and entertaining!

We will be on the same cruise in 79 days! I am sooooooo looking forward to it. Even though we are going to be in the inside room... Not even a balcony!

Edited by Itchy&Scratchy

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On 1/9/2019 at 7:44 AM, Esprit said:

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

Royal Caribbean - Independence of the Seas 2009

omg, our very first cruise just happened to be on IOTS in 2009!  We LOVED it! So much, in fact, that we came back on IOTS 5 years later with our offspring in tow.

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a quick question: on the Nassau Cruise compass it says "proof of citizenship required" on the way back. Did anyone actually check the proof of citizenship? I don't really want to carry our passports to the beach... Thanks!

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17 minutes ago, Itchy&Scratchy said:

omg, our very first cruise just happened to be on IOTS in 2009!  We LOVED it! So much, in fact, that we came back on IOTS 5 years later with our offspring in tow.

Sorry OP, I don't want to derail this thread, but I can't PM on these boards.  Itchy, I see that you've sailed the Freedom and Voyager classes a good amount (as have we), and also sailed the NCL Getaway.  Did you do a review of the Getaway that you could link me to, or do any comparison the Royal's ships?  I'm curious because friends of ours really like NCL but I'm leary based on my research.  Mainly with the pool decks, lack of royal promenade, and public spaces.

 

Dan

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11 minutes ago, Itchy&Scratchy said:

a quick question: on the Nassau Cruise compass it says "proof of citizenship required" on the way back. Did anyone actually check the proof of citizenship? I don't really want to carry our passports to the beach... Thanks!

 

Our experience at Nassau has been that they are happy with a government issued photo ID that matches the name on the SeaPass card.

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15 minutes ago, The Fun Researcher said:

Sorry OP, I don't want to derail this thread, but I can't PM on these boards.  Itchy, I see that you've sailed the Freedom and Voyager classes a good amount (as have we), and also sailed the NCL Getaway.  Did you do a review of the Getaway that you could link me to, or do any comparison the Royal's ships?  I'm curious because friends of ours really like NCL but I'm leary based on my research.  Mainly with the pool decks, lack of royal promenade, and public spaces.

 

Dan

In short, I would pick RCI over Norwegian any time. ETA: that said, we do prefer NEWER ships.

 

We couldn't use the free specialty restaurants on the Getaway due to them being right next to the casino and being smoked through. The food was average (I do realize that RCI's food has become quite sub par in the last few years). We did enjoy the Getaway in terms of family activities and the entertainment was very good, but as far as I know, RCI is a bit superior in those two ways. Plus, we love the Royal Promenade.

And now I can't wait to get on the Allure, because it offers even more entertainment and family activities!

 

Edited by Itchy&Scratchy

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8 minutes ago, Itchy&Scratchy said:

a quick question: on the Nassau Cruise compass it says "proof of citizenship required" on the way back. Did anyone actually check the proof of citizenship?

 

Yes they do, in fact a story we didn't relate was we were on the port security cue to get back on the ship, and Mrs. Winks thought she could use the image from her Mobile Passport app. They wouldn't accept that. Fortunately, she had her driver's license  tucked in her phone case. That worked.  If you read the Compass alert is says Photo ID or Proof of Citizenship + your Seapass card.

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3 minutes ago, WinksCruises said:

If you read the Compass alert is says Photo ID or Proof of Citizenship + your Seapass card.

Thank you! You are right, I read it as "Photo ID Proof of Citizenship" and got stressed out over nothing.

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Sorry for all the screwed up formatting in this last post.  It was inadvertently added during my last format edit and Cruise Critic forums continue to be a poster's nightmare for trying to write anything! I'm timed out, so can no longer edit, clean-up or delete this post. Shame, Shame, Shame.

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REPOSTING with original formatting

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Mimosas lined up for the Top Tier event

 

As Cruise Critic members in good standing, we make sure we sign up for our voyage’s Roll Call and Meet & Mingle event within minutes of booking every cruise. Then, months before embarking, we comb the Roll Call regularly, hoping to glean handy tips about the ship and upcoming ports of call, and generate excitement for ourselves about our upcoming getaway.

 

 

 

Sadly, on the Roll Calls, we mostly just get chatterbox from members yapping about every topic under the sun except our itinerary including their inane family dramas, undying remorse for a favorite college team that just tanked in the playoffs, or detailed 10-day meteorological summaries of their locales. And then always the gratuitous round of tears and well-wishes for the couple who, after posting multiple-times every day on the Roll Call, making friends with everyone (except us of course), and being the most enthusiastic voyagers you ever saw, for one reason or another, have to cancel the sailing and say goodbye to the message board, abandoning us all completely. Thanks.

 

 

Fortunately, we’ve had better luck, and more fun, at the Meet & Mingle events that are held once the ship is underway. Our last few cruises have been on Celebrity and Princess, where the Meet & Mingles are considered a big deal, many times with the actual ship’s master showing up to thank us for our loyalty, re-energize us about the brand and beseech us to go easy on the crew when composing our scathing reviews for Cruise Critic, which they claim, truthfully or not, they all read, by flashlight under the bedcovers in their cabins late at night, religiously. These events are generally well attended, sometimes feature live music, refreshments, raffle giveaways and include people socializing and getting together in person to iron-out the final details of the cabin crawls, book clubs and slot pulls they organized pre-cruise on the roll call.

 

 

All good stuff. Which is why we so amused by how differently the Meet & Mingle was handled on the Allure.

 

 

It was not the captain, nor the Crown and Anchor loyalty host, nor even the cruise director, but the assistant cruise director, Flavio, who was the company’s goodwill ambassador for our Meet & Mingle. And boy, he couldn’t have cared less!

 

 

Disregarding a career opportunity to shine, he focused his efforts on rushing through the formalities while simultaneously denigrating the logo-products that made up the contents of his rather pathetic basket of gift-swag. And it was pretty much hilarious.

 

 

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  Falvio handing out his raffle prizes...

 

 

So here’s what happened. The Meet & Mingle was held just off the Royal Promenade at the On-Air Lounge at 10:30 am of our first day at sea. We remembered to bring along the special Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle invitation that had been waiting in our stateroom on arrival day, and were surprised when there was no one at the door bothering to check them.

 

 

In fact, throughout the short event, curious fellow passengers came wandering in from the Promenade mall, availing themselves of the gratis coffee and Danish that had been set-up in the back. (You know how Royal Caribbean passengers have that uncanny sixth sense for scoping-out free food!) And adding-insult-to-injury, Flavio would hand these glommers raffle tickets if they took a seat, never confirming if they were Cruise Critic members or not, with most of them just assuming they were awaiting yet another DreamWorks character appearance, I suspect.

 

 

Mrs. Winks and I took a seat at a high-top, and realized the dark room and tight seating were not conducive to mingling. But we didn’t want to do that anyway, Flavio made it clear the moment he took the stage. "I know you guys are just here for the raffle prizes, so let’s just get to it.”

 

 

No talk about upcoming ships, no acknowledgment of how powerful Cruise Critic is as an influencer in the industry, no petition to dial back the complaints in our trip reports, not even a thank you for choosing Royal Caribbean. Whoops, some other unvetted people just wandered into the space. Flavio stops his speech to hand them raffle tickets.

 

 

Back on script, Flavio then explained the prize gift-basket was comprised of sub-par Royal logo swag that we probably didn’t want to win anyway, because it wasn’t worth the baggage space or weight it would require to fly home with. “Cruise Critic used to send us the good stuff,” he whispered into the mic as a sly aside. “But then they cut the budget, so you guys are stuck with the gift shop’s remainders.”

 

 

The best was when he asked one of the winners up to the stage and handing her a wine bottle, inquired as to her Cruise Critic handle on the forums, “So the people from your roll call can match a name to a face.” And not missing a beat, the prize-winner looked up at him and asked, “What’s Cruise Critic?”

 

 

Flavio had just awarded a bottle of wine to a non-Cruise Critic member! And didn't care a wink!

 

 

“I’m sorry, about the wine,” he said quickly ushering her, and the bottle, off the stage. “We don’t even drink that swill below deck when we’re desperate,” he said returning to the mic stand. “Which is always.”

 

 

If you think I am embellishing this tale, take a look at this video clip in which Flavio warns a winner about the wearing the blue Royal Caribbean baseball cap included in her gift bag. (make sure sound is on).

 

 

 

Flavio explains it all...

 

 

That said, Flavio was one of the most candid hosts I’ve ever seen at one of these events. His humor and self-deprecating presentation were a breath of fresh air, even if the suits back in Miami would be mortified by it. And looking at the lackluster attendance numbers (there were probably more non-Cruise Critic walk-ins there than actual members) no one seemed disappointed by the event. Everyone is happy when they have a free coffee, pastry and a chance to win prizes, I suppose.

 

 

From the Meet & Mingle, Mrs. Winks and I headed directly to the Top Tier Event, which was being held in the AquaTheater. It was yet another elite event, for Royal Diamond Club members and above, which was jammed tighter than the Windjammer Buffet on a disembarkment morning.

 

 

This event was organized more like the Meet & Mingles we’ve been on, with scripted presentations on the video screens, branding support from Jimmy Rhodes the cruise director, and then an appearance by Captain Tore Grimstad accompanied by a group of his senior officers, many of whom we recognized from the previous day’s heliport sail away affair. 

 

 

For the record, there were 332 Diamond Club members, 164 Diamond-Plus members and 7 Pinnacle Club members on this particular sailing.

 

 

After introducing members of his crew, thanking us for our loyalty and recognizing the Pins with a bottle of champagne each, the Captain turned it over to the AquaTheater gymnasts and platform divers who gave us a sneak peek of the stunts they performed nightly at the various shows there.

 

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Captain Grimstad and show performers at the Top Tier event

 

 

After the Top Tier event, we wandered out to explore the ship a little more, experiencing one neighborhood after another. It was as uneasy as touring through Belfast and I still don’t understand the logic behind that blueprint. But I’ll give the big-ships one thing; they are ginormous!

 

 

Both Mrs. Winks and I felt Central Park was probably our favorite space, not simply because of our New York affiliation, but because it was one of the quieter, laid-back areas of the ship, free of running children, steel-drum reggae bands and the general crowd volumes that plague most other areas.

 

 

We then decided to have lunch in the Main Dining Room, a venue we’d always intended to enjoy a dinner or two in, but in the end, never did. We settled for two lunches there, both on the sea days, lured in by the pasta and salad bars that much more civilized to partake in than facing the non-stop, every-man-for-himself carnage going on at the Windjammer. Thanks to the rich purple color of our Sea Pass card, the Maitre D’ showed us to a nice window table for two, located just above the ocean level, so we could watch the waves fly by as we dined. I believe Mrs. Winks had the Chicken N Waffles while I had selections from both the pasta and salad bars.

 

 

After lunch, and a stop at the holiday-themed dessert bar, we explored the upper levels of the ship. My favorite anomaly was the cabin just below the landing platform for the ship’s Zip Line activity. I’m assuming this stateroom goes for a slightly discounted rate, for having to suffer Zip Liners coming in for a landing on the platform installed over the balcony. But how do they describe that on the rack sheet? Obstructed view or some such? May be subject to occasional thuds and cries of pain?

 

 

Mrs. Winks wondered if maybe they were afforded suite status, like those who face the cow rear-ends on Freedom of the Seas Ben & Jerry’s room, but concluded it would never be a cabin option for us, not because of the Zip Line activity, but because it didn’t face the water or have a bathtub.

 

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The odd cabin that has a landing platform over their balcony.

 

 

While it was still a couple of weeks before Christmas, the ship was decked out in holiday decor, with new installations magically appearing overnight. While having dinner at Sabor’s late one evening, we watched as multiple staff attempted to put together a pre-lighted artificial tree, while others hung colorful ornaments above the tequila bar.

 

 

There was a 30-foot high Xmas tree set-up in the Royal Promenade, which served as one of the photo stations during the evening, a time when it was ceremoniously lit up.

On formal night, when Mrs. Winks and I were online to get our pictures taken in front of it, the guy in the couple ahead of us dropped to his knee and proposed to his girlfriend there, as family members cheered them on, and the awkward moment captured for posterity by the equally stunned ship photographer.

 

 

Roaming the decks throughout the evenings were several gangs clad as Santas. At times they appeared to be rivals, and I was waiting for a drunken brawl to break out, so the kids could witness the stark realities of the season, but sadly, from what we saw, everyone managed to remain on their best behavior, so visions of sugar plums remained dancing in their heads.

 

 

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Holiday decor and Santacon at Sea

 

 

Next Up: Kimmelwecks, Cozumel and the Celebrity Edge.

 

 

 

Thanks for your continued readership. Follow to keep up with our latest posts. See links to our previous cruise reviews by expanding the signature below.

 

Edited by WinksCruises

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I really don't care that they really don't care, but I have to agree that the fun squad or whatever RC calls them was a lot lower energy/less smiley than the Carnival equivalent.   Carnival trivia gives away these ridiculous but adorable and highly coveted little plastic gold ship on a stick trophies.  On the Oasis we competed for dried out RC highlighters and pens. The whole cruise.

 

I would presume that room with the zipline landing gets booked either by people who don't know any better, or as you note, perhaps there is a discount in the form of offering it via a "neighborhood guarantee" or a "Boardwalk guarantee" category for somebody too cheap to pay a few hundred dollars more to pick a much better neighborhood cabin, say one over in Central Park.  I can think of some people who could easily be fooled into such an offer.

Edited by KmomChicago

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1 hour ago, KmomChicago said:

Perhaps there is a discount in the form of offering it via a "neighborhood guarantee" or a "Boardwalk guarantee" category...

If you've always sailed an inside cabin, it might be an affordable option for seeing what balconies are all about. I just hope the booking notes and deck plan make it clear what you're getting! But yeah, they may just tuck it in under a category guarantee and you get what you get. Surprise!

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