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moesyk4

Mini Review of Allure of the Seas...11 bags, 3 kids, and a partridge in a pear tree!

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Posted (edited)

We have recently returned from our April 7th cruise aboard the Allure of the Seas. As I officially can no longer say "Last week we were....", I am drowning my sorrows in at least reliving the cruise memories here!

This will not be an exhaustive review as no one, including myself, needs to relive exactly how many times I visited Sorrento's. I plan to mainly post in areas of interest: food, cabin, service, etc. with exceptions for travel days and a few other items.

Things that may primarily be of interest to some would be cruising on a budget as well as cruising with a family of 5 (which all stayed in one regular stateroom!)

 

Now to introduce ourselves...I am K, and this is my 9th cruise and my 4th aboard a RCCL ship. My husband A and I sailed aboard the Freedom of the Seas in 2007 which was the biggest Royal ship we have been on. Our most recent cruise together was aboard the Norwegian Getaway and was a truly fabulous experience...spa balcony, unlimited alcohol, dining package, etc. This was his 7th cruise. Our oldest M is 9 and has had the very good fortune of enjoying 3 cruises now in his short lifetime. Suffice to say, he is hooked and was happy to show his siblings the ropes. Our middle son N is 5 and our daughter G is 4....unless you count me cruising pregnant at 14 weeks, this was a first cruise experience for both of them!

 

 

This cruise was not a surprise, but the date we were leaving was and we managed to keep that hidden until we pulled up to the airport! I will try to post some tips along the way that we would've found helpful.

 

Pre cruise and Travel Tips!

1. Kids sail free is your friend! There are very few true sales anymore, but we were able to save well over 1,000 from just the Carnival one we were considering because of this sale. The Oasis class and above have regular staterooms that sleep 5. Many phone reps are not aware of these and I highly recommend finding them before calling in and asking about specific room numbers. We kept getting quotes for rooms like the spacious oceanviews that were double the price of this. Disclaimer: Yes, the room is tight and I wouldn't recommend it with older kids, but for our kids' ages, it worked out just fine. We packed a sheet we tucked into the top bunk to create a separate sleep space for our middle child, who has some sleep issues. Our youngest slept with us and we had a fan and a white noise app going. Everyone slept just fine and we had room to store everything as well.

 

2. Even on a budget, price should not be the only determining factor! I snatched this cruise up at a great price without taking into account other factors I wish I would've considered, namely flights and ages of our kids. We only fly Southwest because of points and the Allure was sailing out of Miami. We easily spent an extra $500 on hotels, rental cars, etc. because of crazy flight prices and having to get to Miami from Ft. Lauderdale. Plus, the multiple transfers with 11 bags and 3 kids was exhausting and stressful. I would've paid the extra money just to sail out of Ft. Lauderdale or Tampa and avoid the hassle. Also, our son will turn 6 in just a few weeks, which made him just barely too young for several activities. That was tough, especially when he saw M participating in things like rock climbing he could've done. I would've waited until after his birthday if I would've thought of it.

 

3. We invested in a set of mini Boogie Board writing pads before we left and they were perfect for waiting for shows, the airport, playing a little game at dinner, etc. Look them up!

 

4. If you fly Southwest, always check flight prices 6-8 weeks out several times a day. It still amazes me how much things drop in that time frame! We were able to get a much better flight time and cut two hours off of our commute to the airport home by moving from Tampa to Ft. Myers.

 

Our travel plans were as follows:

Day 1: Fly to Ft. Lauderdale, pick up our rental car, and drive to Residence Inn Miami Turnpike

Day 2: Arrive at the Allure of the Seas!

Day 3: Sea Day

Day 4: Sea Day

Day 5: St. Maarten

Day 6: San Juan

Day 7: Labadee

Day 8: Sea Day

Day 9: Disembark, pick up rental car, and head to Ft. Myers and the Homewood Suites

Day 10: Lover's Key State Park and fly home 😞

 

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Cruising makes everyone feel a little closer, even brothers, so please join us on our mini review of our trip!

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Edited by moesyk4

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Please, please let me know if you have trouble viewing the pictures...I had trouble last time and want to make sure they show up!

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Travel Day 1

 

We were able to book a nice midday flight from our home airport. Nana came in town to drive us to the airport and grab our dogs for her much appreciated dog sitting stint. We told the kids we were all headed to a local museum and instead headed to the airport. Our middle son was the first to notice we were going the wrong direction just before we pulled into the airport, and just a few moments later our oldest turned around to notice the luggage! It was a fun surprise and I am glad we kept it a secret as it also curbed the endless begging about how many days were left to the cruise (a little).

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As I stated in my earlier review, traveling with little ones isn't easy no matter how you slice it. We tried to pack light, but between travel bags, clothes bags, a bag with puddle jumpers and beach accessories, and 2 booster seats, it was a LOT. As I also stated earlier, we had multiple transfers along the way (car to airport, airport to rental car, rental car to hotel, hotel to rental car, and rental car to port). With 11 bags. And 3 kids. I absolutely would not book another cruise with so many transfers...no big deal with 2 adults. BIG deal with 3 little ones who can't help much with the hauling.

 

We did indeed, eventually make it to the Residence Inn largely in one piece. We chose the hotel primarily based on the fact that it was the only one in the area that sleep more than 4 and was under $200/night, which was the most we wanted to spend considering we would be there just around 16 hours. It was clean, had a nice pool, and was easy to get to from Ft. Lauderdale. I don't know that I would stay again simply based on the fact that it was a good 25 minutes to the airport the opposite direction from the port. We typically stay close to the port or in Brickell which is so much easier of a commute!

 

That being said, the hotel was in a nice area with plenty of shops and restaurants. Our room had 2 queens, a fold out couch, and a full kitchen. It also included a very nice breakfast buffet!

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After a quick breakfast and a little bit of a delayed start, we made our way to the airport to return the Alamo rental car. We chose the airport because we knew they had a shuttle to the port and because we had heard the downtown locations can be a nightmare with cruisers. Despite the stress of transfers (did I mention 11 bags and 3 kids yet?), the experience was smooth. The shuttle pulled up just minutes after we arrived, had plenty of seats, and took us straight to the port.

 

Note: Keep your receipt when you return the car! Our shuttle driver did check and actually got into it with someone who was trying to sneak onboard. I am not sure if they were actually renters that lost the receipt or were just sneaking on, but it was a little bit awkward when they began getting pretty worked up. He was not allowed on the shuttle regardless.

 

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It was about a 15 minute ride to the port and the new terminal really was great. We were a little later than I normally like to arrive and got there around 11:00 am, but we never stopped moving from the time we walked in to when we boarded the ship. The check in was seamless and easy, we got wristbands for the kids, and were on board in probably 15 minutes time. Very impressive!

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This was it...we were finally ready to board our 1st family cruise!

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Posted (edited)

I will start reviewing different aspects of the cruise including excursions, cabin, food, etc. tomorrow, but wanted to end tonight with some embarkation day tips we gathered here and found helpful.

 

1. Check in time is just a suggestion. I think ours was 1:30 pm and we arrived at 11:00 am and were able to walk right onboard. Don't waste any precious ship time, ideally I would've loved to be there even earlier!

 

2. Don't waste those first few precious minutes at the buffet! Get off the promenade quickly as it is swamped as everyone boards and heads to the first sign of food. We began exploring immediately to a mostly empty ship and sampled mini golf, basketball, ping pong, etc. with no one around. We grabbed a quick bite at Wipe Out Cafe, which opened at 11:30 am. We later hit up the Solarium Bistro around 1:00 pm and both were nice and quiet when we ate as I'm sure the Windjammer and Sorrento's were not!

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3. There is a podium right in the promenade that you can make your specialty dining reservations at. We had booked the 3 night dining package and was able to tweak our schedule and nights right there in about 3 minutes. It was nice to get that out of the way! The main dining room also has staff available to check your dining time and make reservations. We had gotten switched by email to Early Traditional in an attempt to take advantage of My family time dining (more on that later), but our Seapass cards still said MTD. We were able to work it out in a few minutes and get our table assignment that first afternoon.

 

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4. The "secret" sundeck on Deck 14 all the way forward port side is a fabulous place to watch sailaway. We took the stairs immediately following the muster drill and were the first ones there. It did eventually get a decent crowd, but I am sure nothing like the other decks and offers a fantastic view! We enjoyed our front row seats.

 

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5. Grab a Cruise Compass right away and browse. Although we mostly just explored, there were little things we had fun experiencing that first day that made it extra special, like balloon twisting and the carousel. We wouldn't have known about those if we waited until we got to our room to look.

 

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Thanks for joining so far and I will begin to review the areas of our ship and trip tomorrow.

Edited by moesyk4

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I'm  loving  your  review !   We  board in June   (just 2 adults  ) but  loving  the tips .   Thanks  for  sharing  your  experience !    Your  pictures  are great !   You  are  truly  blessed  with  a  beautiful  family  and the  memories  you all are sharing  are indeed  priceless !    Can't  wait  to  read  more ! 

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14 hours ago, thegraminator said:

I'm  loving  your  review !   We  board in June   (just 2 adults  ) but  loving  the tips .   Thanks  for  sharing  your  experience !    Your  pictures  are great !   You  are  truly  blessed  with  a  beautiful  family  and the  memories  you all are sharing  are indeed  priceless !    Can't  wait  to  read  more ! 

 

I am jealous, you will love the ship!

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Posted (edited)

Ok, at this point I am going to switch to a review of different aspects of the cruise. If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask!

 

I will start with activities.

 

Activities:

We were very spoiled by the number of activities on the Getaway...the ropes course was awesome, multiple slides, bungee trampoline, etc. I was honestly a little worried about us getting bored on the Allure, particularly with the younger two as they couldn't do several of the activities.

We also found out that Dreamworks was not going to be on the ships anymore. We had hoped they might have some replacement programs, but as of our sailing, they did not.

That being said, we needn't have worried as there was always plenty to do. We followed the recommendations of others here and hit up the activities as soon as they opened to little to no wait. This worked out well...both times I did the ziplines back to back, my husband and oldest could do the Flowrider multiple times.

The zipline was fun, but a lot shorter than I expected. We all enjoyed the Flowrider and one of instructors was really great...he was helping everyone do some of the harder stuff. He got me on my knees, which if you know me I couldn't have done on my own.

 

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One thing we really appreciated was how many little "filler" activities were available for kids. The Boardwalk in general was a great place to grab a hot dog, ride on the carousel, and play in the little play structure outside of the Aquatheater. When you are an adult and have 30 minutes to kill, it isn't a big deal, but it can be tough with kids. It was great to be able to have a quick activity and still have fun!

 

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One of the activities available every day is face painting and balloon twisting. They were great, but be aware that the face painting line was SLOW. The guy who did face painting took at least 10 minutes with each child, so we waited about 40 minutes both times we did it. 

 

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The only day we found the pools to be overly crowded was the afternoon after San Juan when the whole kid's area was closed for some reason. 

One thing to be aware of is all the of the hot tubs are open to kids except for the Solarium of course. We had kids so we didn't care, but a lot of them were packed with kids most of the day. If you are looking for a place to relax, the hot tub in the Solarium may be your friend. We made a point not to go into hot tubs with several adults and made sure our kids weren't splashing and such, but I'm sure not all parents were quite as aware.

 

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Finally, our kids ended up LOVING ice skating. If you go, you need long pants and socks. We found that it was busy right when it opened as everyone rushed in to go, but if you waited until the second group you could skate as long as you wanted. They ended up going 3 times!

 

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Edited by moesyk4

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Great review so far!  We are on Allure next February so I am devouring all things Allure than I can!  Also, your kids are adorable!  Our kids are 4 and 8 and we are contemplating taking them in the next couple years so it is great to read a review from others with kids this age.

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13 hours ago, moesyk4 said:

Finally, our kids ended up LOVING ice skating. If you go, you need long pants and socks. We found that it was busy right when it opened as everyone rushed in to go, but if you waited until the second group you could skate as long as you wanted. They ended up going 3 times!

 

 

so did mine! He ended up skating 4 times, sometimes for the entire hour and 50 minutes. He got so into it, he'd ask every minute of every day to go....

When we got home, I enrolled him in skating lessons locally. Can't wait for the lessons to start.

 

P.S. I knew we were going to skate onboard, so I brought gloves for myself and mittens for DS. They came in very handy, since he fell down a lot during the first 2 sessions. Other kids (with no gloves) quit after the first fall because their hands were hurt by the ice.

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We were on the same cruise and had a wonderful time.  Allure is my favorite ship!  Too much ship time for us as we are port people, love heading to beaches on our islands, but still had an amazing time.  Saw lots of great shows and the staff was super awesome!

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Great review so far.  Your kids are so cute!  Looks like you had a great time. Allure is an amazing ship.

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Posted (edited)
20 hours ago, moesyk4 said:

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LOVE this picture. What a sweet family!

Edited by Arzeena

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On 4/23/2019 at 11:28 AM, Itchy&Scratchy said:

so did mine! He ended up skating 4 times, sometimes for the entire hour and 50 minutes. He got so into it, he'd ask every minute of every day to go....

When we got home, I enrolled him in skating lessons locally. Can't wait for the lessons to start.

 

P.S. I knew we were going to skate onboard, so I brought gloves for myself and mittens for DS. They came in very handy, since he fell down a lot during the first 2 sessions. Other kids (with no gloves) quit after the first fall because their hands were hurt by the ice.

 

I wish we would've thought of that! My youngest loved it the first time, but then fell twice in a row the second time and refused to go back. She had fun on the Boardwalk instead, but I wish she would've given it another shot.

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Cabin:

 

We stayed in cabin 7678. It is a standard balcony cabin that sleeps 5 on the starboard side. The layout is meant to have 1 in the bunkbed, 2 on the couch bed, and 2 in the regular bed. Our middle son has some pretty specific sleep needs and so he got the couch bed all to himself with my daughter in our bed (which is where she ends up most nights anyway!). I brought a sheet and tucked it into the bunkbed and we brought a fan. Things were cozy with the beds out in the evening, but overall it actually went really well. Our youngest two are up bright and early, but they probably would've been regardless and it gave us a head start on the day's activities. 

 

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This is the layout for 5.

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We LOVED the location of this room. We were one floor down from Central Park, one floor up from the Boardwalk, and two floors up from the Promenade. Just about everything we wanted to go to was on that side of the ship...the main dining restaurant, the Windjammer, the kid's pool area, and the rock climbing wall. It was so nice to stroll through Central Park in the evenings on the way back to the room. We were close to the elevators and stairs but in a nice quiet hallway with very little foot traffic. I highly recommend the location!

 

We have heard recommendations about bringing a hammock and so we did. It was fun to lay on and relax with, but not sure that we needed it? I took it down each time (leaving the loops up) which was a little bit of a pain and I really am just fine with the chairs. Logistically, it was easy to do if it something you might be interested in!

 

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Thanks so much for the great review! Will be boarding Allure in June for the first time and it's great to read your perspective!

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Specialty Dining:

 

We had the 3 night dining package that we got a great deal on earlier in the year.  You have to use the 1st meal on the 1st or 2nd night. We didn't want to ditch the kids that early in the cruise and so we planned on doing the 1st meal with everyone and booked for the 2nd night. We found out later that is actually the 1st formal night and didn't want to miss that. Once we got on board, we walked right up to the podium on the promenade and switched to Giovanni's (figured it had the most kid friendly menu) for the 1st night, Chops for night 4, and 150 Central Park West on night 6. We edited 150 to Giovanni's later in the week and had no issues with any of our dining times, although we were dining on the early side. 

 

I'm sure it varies, but we did not notice any of the specialty restaurants even half full even at the busiest times. For those who book the dining package, I would not worry about getting your preferred dates and times.

 

Giovanni's: We dined here the first night with the whole family and I had really mixed feelings. One of our kids was having a really rough day adjusting to the change in schedule and late nights and so it was not the best night to try to navigate a specialty dinner.

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On top of that, service was SOOO slow. We only got our appetizers in the first hour, and then let him know when he dropped him off that we had our show at 8:30, which was over 2 hours after our start time, but we were getting nervous as we still had 3 courses to go! 

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We told him to bring our pasta and entrees together and even though we should've had plenty of time still, this whole thing made him super nervous. He kept bringing up we had "plenty of time" even though we wanted to get there by 8:15 to have somewhat decent seats. Our entrees took another 25 minutes and when we had been there almost 2 hours with a very fiesty kid, having had just 2 courses, and still hadn't even received the dessert menu, we gave up and asked for the check. He looked horrified and kept saying he "still had time". It was frustrating to say the least.

Between that and the whole dining experience being not super kid friendly (trying to keep a 4 and 5 year old from breaking their water glasses isn't super relaxing!), I wouldn't do a specialty with kids again. We did see a couple of older kids the other times, but not many younger ones, so we must not be alone!

 

That being said, the food was phenomenal. I had read the filet was better than Chops and I would agree. It was so tender and that sauce was amazing. I got the gnocchi and it was out of this world...my husband wanted to skip 150 and return there just to get more of it. We went back for a date night later in the week (well, my oldest ended up tagging along!) and got pretty much the same thing. 
I wish I could comment on dessert after our 2nd visit, but I was just too full! I got the pork belly the 2nd time and between that, the filet, and the gnocchi, I was stuffed.

 

I think this pretty much sums our thoughts on Giovanni's up!

 

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Chops: Our other dining experience was at Chops. We had eaten there in our first specialty dining experience on the Freedom way back in 2007 and was excited to try it again. I would echo most of what I read on here. The steaks were excellent as were the appetizers. The sides and desserts were all just ok. We had the absolute best experience with service here...Marikris was amazing! My oldest joined us again and still talks about his kid's steak.

 

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Couple of tips about the specialty restaurants:

1. Several of them are in Central Park and eating outside is wonderful! Be aware there are certain times the pool music wanders down...we opted to dine inside the last night because we were eating right at sailaway. The other two times, however, we ate outdoors and it was lovely!

2. Kids 6-12 years old are $10 at the specialty dining restaurants. They were given a nice menu of kid's versions of the main menu, not the typical chicken nuggets, etc. We were also told at Giovanni's they could order any pasta/sauce combo. The younger two were free and were able to order off of the same special kid's menu. Our son ordered the shrimp cocktail off the kid's menu at Chops and it was the same appetizer as ours!

3. When you buy the dining package online, the service charge is included and you are reminded of that on the receipt. I do think, however, that it is not nearly enough and you budget in tipping extra. We tipped extra and after doing the math upon returning, feel like they were still probably undertipped. I'm sure a lot of people just see that the service charge is included and don't think twice about it.

 

 

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On to Entertainment! This post won't have many pictures due to copyright laws, but I hope it's worth a look.

 

1. Ocean Aria: With the recommendations of the board, we booked Ocean Aria the first night. With skipping our dessert, we were able to make the show and get actual seats. About half the seating is bleachers which I hate, so get there early for a decent seat! Others recommend booking early in case it is cancelled due to weather. We didn't have that on our sailing, but I can see how that would be an issue and this show was a must see for us!

The kids were absolutely mesmerized by the whole thing, it was a great mix of diving and other acrobatics. No pictures due to copyright, but suffice to say it was a great time.

2. Ice Games: As has been stated on here, the show's theme is a little cheesy, but again, my kids absolutely loved it as did the adults. I am always so amazing what they can do in such a little rink! Yes, there were some spills, but overall they did a great job. My younger two loved it so much we went and saw it a 2nd time on the last sea day.

There was a "guest star"...I can't remember her name, but she did an act on the Lira (sp?) ring to Ellie Goulding's "Lights" that was breathtaking. We were all enthralled and my daughter has been doing her own version at home on the slackline ever since! I don't know how much of a "guest" she is, but if she is there, please go see! You won't regret it.

Since I don't have the original performer, this is my daughter performing her version for the 7,000,000th time at home. She is about as good as the original :).

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3. Momma Mia: We did really enjoy this overall...we had the younger two in the kid's club for the long performance and ended up sending out my oldest halfway through as it was a little racier than we remember. The 3 main male performers and the Mom were all excellent. I thought Sophie and the set overall was a little weak, but I am probably spoiled by Legally Blonde on Getaway, which was amazing.

Here is my son and I, before he is banished after the 17th crotch grab.

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4. Comedy Club: My husband and I did this as a date night...reminder that it is 18+ so no kids allowed! The shows were funny, not the best I've seen but not bad at all. If you do not have reservations or want to see an extra show, I would get there 30 minutes before to line up in standby as it is a small venue and the line was always huge!

 

5. Blue Planet: Unfortunately, we did not end up seing this one as we had scheduled it for 4:30 the last day and dinner was at 5:15. I had heard mixed reviews, but I always do love the entertainment and was a little disappointed we didn't make it.

 

6. Headliner: This was a juggler/comedian...his name is escaping me at the moment but I get the impression he is a common performer on the Allure. I, oddly, have seen a large number of jugglers perform and was not looking forward to another, but he was actually very funny and we all enjoyed him. He was definitely worth watching!

 

7. Other entertainment: Due to the early mornings, our evening entertainment ended up being fairly limited. My husband and daughter tried to go to the family comedy show but didn't enjoy it and left. I attended the Love and Marriage show which was hilarious as always! We tried family karaoke several times and it was always packed. I did feel that there was very limited offerings that were family friendly after dinner, but overall we were fine between earlier bedtimes and last minute dips in the hot tub.

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Free Dining

 

1. Windjammer Buffet: This was hands down our favorite buffet of all our cruises. Plenty of great options, handled crowds well, lots of seating with a view.

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As stated earlier, our kids got up bright and early and when we got to breakfast before 8, there was no problem getting a table or having to wait. Our assistant waiter in the evenings happened to work there in the mornings where we ate and we always picked a spot where we could see him. Breakfast was great (with the exception of some pretty terrible scrambled eggs) and I enjoyed fresh waffles with tons of toppings options every morning.

 

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We do not do buffets for dinner, but we did stumble in there a few times for late night dining. We happened upon a chocolate buffet one evening which had made to order crepes!

 

One thing I haven't seen before and really appreciated was strolling waiters taking juice and coffee orders in the morning. The couple of early port days when we did happen to have to wait, I really appreciated that the line was just to have them direct you to a table. We didn't wait more than a couple of minutes and it was nice not having to drag 3 kids and all of our beach supplies around the room for 20 minutes to find a table.

 

2. Wipe Out Cafe: The place was just meh, but was a good place to grab chocolate soft serve or a quick kid friendly meal. We stopped in right when they opened the first day and they were quiet, but it is a very small space and felt busy most times we tried to go. The food was nothing special and some of it wasn't good at all. We tried it for breakfast the day we stopped in San Juan as the early arrival had Windjammer slammed and it was awful...soggy waffles, the worst eggs I have every seen, etc. I did hear rumors on here post cruise they had a made to order omelette station in there, but somehow we missed that.

 

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3. Solarium Bistro: We stopped there for a nice quiet lunch the very first day and oddly never made it back. The food was a nice variety, albeit not very kid friendly. The atmosphere was very pretty and relaxed. I don't know that a lot of people knew about it so it is probably a great option for a quiet lunch.

 

4. Sorrento's: RCCL pizza gets a bad rap, but we honestly ended up enjoying it. It was so busy that they pizza was always fresh and the line moved quickly. We ended up eating there several evenings or for a quick "linner" between meals.

 

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5. Cafe Promenade: This is another place we oddly never made it to much. We did grab a random dessert or two there or a cup of coffee when they main dining room was closed, but that was it! The sandwiches did look yummy overall and I believe this is the only option available all night.

 

6. Park Cafe: This quickly became or favorite lunch stop! Beware, it gets SLAMMED during the lunch rush, but if you get there early or late you can enjoy a great meal in Central Park. As a reminder, the pool music can be loud at certain times, but it generally didn't bother us. They had a make your own salad bar that was very good and some of the best desserts we have had at sea! They are over at the coffee bar...I don't think a lot of people realized they were free. This was also a good place to get bagged chips and hot chocolate for the kids where we couldn't find anywhere else. 

 

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There is also plenty of shade which is great!

 

 

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Main Dining Room:

 

I felt this deserved its own post! We at at American Icon. We were originally scheduled for MTD, but learned about Family Time Dining on these boards and wanted the option to take advantage of that. Basically, the kids' food is brought out first and then you can drop them off with Adventure Ocean staff 40 minutes or so after the meal starts so that you can enjoy the rest of the meal with just adults. In order to use this service, though, you have to sign up for Early Traditional, which was full. We got the email address of RCCL Dining from these boards, emailed them a couple of weeks out, and got switched, woohoo!

 

Or so we thought...we got on board and our cards said MTD. We swung by the main dining room that afternoon and he set us up with a table at...5:15? That is one early dinner! We also learned by looking at the Cruise Compass staff wouldn't be around until 6:40! I thought maybe I had messed up and should've done MTD, but MTD didn't start until 6:30 pm! I am not sure who they thought the service would be benefiting, but I confirmed with both the Adventure Ocean staff and the dining staff the info was correct and they all seemed really confused by my question.

 

It was frustrating to say the least, but it worked out ok. After doing some research, it seems that Early Traditional is typically at 6 and MTD is all night on a separate floor. That was not the case here...MTD was on all floors starting at 6:30 and the line was out the door. It seems they were perhaps testing getting 3 seatings at dinner, which would make sense with the timing of our meal as we were out around 6:45 each night. 

 

All that to say, we always enjoy the main dining room experience and this was no exception. The waitstaff was always top notch and this was true here...they went above and beyond to make sure the kids were taken care of and brought fruit for them as soon as we arrived. 

 

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They worked their tails off and brought us our food quickly, which was MUCH appreciated with small kids. We had no problem getting multiples of any course and they always brought us our coffee every night without asking. 

 

You can tell the difference in the quality from the main dining room to the specialty, but we enjoyed everything we got. It was all hot and plated well and a lovely way to end our day. We got a seat right right by the window which was nice since it was still plenty light out at...5:15 lol.

 

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Kid's Programming and Activities:

 

1. Our kids are weird and aren't big group activity people in general, but we had really hoped they would enjoy the kid's club more. My oldest son loved the kid's club on Norwegian, but it wasn't meant to be. They tried it on their own the first day and never asked to go back, although they generally went willingly when asked. 

Our oldest was excited that the 9-11 group is allowed to sign themselves in and out. I think he only used it once, but it was a nice option. 

Our biggest issue was my middle son. He was just a few weeks shy of 6 and was technically in the Aquanots, but was bored silly there. When I came in, they had them sitting in a circle doing a letter game. He is super active which doesn't help, but even my younger one who is totally into that thing looked bored.

We asked to move him up to the Explorers and they said we could try it. There ended up being a some very active older boys and I don't know if that was the issue, but the teachers were really negative and grumpy. Nothing is worse than back from a nice dinner and the teacher immediately grumping about your son, only to find out she could only scrounge up "he didn't want to sit down for the games." At one point, she said he drew in marker all over his face and we later found out it was a girl that was picking on him. 

All that to say, we used it when needed for the specialty restaurants and couple of adult activities like the comedy club, but with the exception of pirate night, it looked pretty lame overall. They were almost always sitting in a circle while a teacher yelled through a microphone. 

The pirate night was cute for my youngest!

My oldest chose to eat dinner with his parents instead of go, if that tells you anything.

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2. As stated earlier, there were plenty of activities for the little ones around the ship. The Boardwalk has a lovely little playplace, bean bag toss, and balloon twisting or face painting occasionally.

 

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The last day is a Boardwalk party with free cotton candy, popcorn, games, and a raffle. It is a great day to spend the last afternoon!

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3. As mentioned earlier, evening entertainment was a little sparse for kids. The hot tubs stated they were adult only 24 hours, but didn't specify when that started. We utilized them in the evenings a couple of times but always picked one that didn't have any adults in it. My son and I did the Puzzle Mystery...I was completely lost but if you like doing the Escape room, it would be fun! My son loved it and we won a coveted medal.

 

4. The kid's pool area has a splash area, a whirlpool little pool, a hot tub, and a shallower regular sized pool. It was closed on our San Juan day, which made the other pools packed. We did end up at all the pools at one time or another. Yes, they were busy, but we could easily find a seat and with the exception of multiple bruises from little legs in the whirlpool, I never felt overly crowded.

 

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One note on the kid's area, it is on the back of the ship and it is WINDY! Plus, it gets shadier first of all the swimming areas. Our first couple of days were fairly cool and the water felt like ice.

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Overall, we found plenty for the kids to do and loved the ship with young kids. It would be hard to go to a smaller ship with kids after this!

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St. Maarten:

Our first stop is St. Maarten. Based on recommendations from the board, we ended up with Bernard's Tours and DJ Dave as our driver. There was 19 in our group and we were in a nice airconditioned van. We made several stops to sightsee along the way. They do provide rum punch, beer, pop, and water which was nice (although the rum punch was more like a shot glass! It was nice and strong though).

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We made a stop at a little stand where the kids were able to feed the iguanas. It was so much fun! 

 

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Our beach stop was at Grand Case Beach and was lovely. We didn't care for Orient Beach on our last trip (gasp!) because the vendors were awful and we didn't have a single one here. Yes, the hurricane damage is extensive and awful, but they were actively rebuilding and we had access to a restaurant. The only negative we had with Bernard's was he made kind of big deal about not getting the seats wet and/or sandy because they weren't waterproof. We did our best, but it was 2 beach stops with 3 kids and having to reuse towels, etc. it was impossible! He didn't complain, but we still felt bad.

 

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After Grand Case, we headed to Marigot. It was a quick stop, but we had time to grab some French pastries.

 

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Our final stop was at the infamous Maho Beach. It was a fairly short stop as I think we were running a little behind, but we got to see a few small planes coming in and a couple big ones take off. The water is rough and rocky so not super kid friendly, but our kids LOVED the waves along the shore so it was a great stop!

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We would definitely recommend Bernard's and the kids were half price, which was a great deal! We would use them again in a heartbeat.

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