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Please tell them it’s safe: Our Mini Trip Report – Allure 8/15-8/22


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About us
We are a mid/late forties couple, love travel adventures and cruising and have cruised exclusively with Royal Caribbean. This trip got us to Diamond Level – which should have happened back in May, 2020..but well, you know!  

 

I am the primary cruise planner (and the more serious of the two)  but when I hesitate @fishpick is the one to pull the trigger which is what happened this time!  I guessed back around June that cruising would be starting up in August so with fingers crossed we booked Allure, especially because we found an awesome deal on a Crown Loft Suite!  We have sailed in Grand and Owner’s suites but couldn’t pass up a change to try out a Loft Suite when Allure got to sailing again.  We were thrilled when it was announced that Allure would be back to sailing in August and we would be on the second sailing of the #royalcomeback on Allure!

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P.S.  You can also see our Ask me anything post while we were onboard: 

 

 

Up next testing and embarkation...

 

 

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Testing
I’ll start by saying I have my doctorate in Microbiology so I’m pretty well versed (and I’ve stayed up to date on all of the published scientific literature) on the topics related to the vaccine, testing, disease risk factors, etc. We are both vaccinated since March and got the message a few weeks before our sailing that we would have a new requirement to be tested three days before our sail date.  I was frustrated by the new requirement as it added extra stress to the cruise preparations. I suppose if you can drive to the port, it isn’t as big a deal but since we are flying from New York to Florida days in advance we had to figure out where to get tested and when!

Since the testing requirement was also new, it was pretty confusing on what tests were and were not accepted.  I spent a lot of time here on cruisecritic reading what people had accepted as tests.  Those that live in areas with a lot of testing choices didn’t understand those of us from areas with fewer choices.  For example, while many used CVS antigen tests, that was not an available option in our area…in fact not within 600 miles.  PCR tests actually aren’t recommended as pre travel/non symptomatic testing and they weren’t really guaranteed to be ready at locations near us within the three days…it was likely they said…but not guaranteed.  We finally opted for NAAT molecular testing at Walgreens where we stopped on our way to airport.  In the Royal FAQ, they confirmed NAAT tests were accepted.  We received our negative test results by the time we got to the airport!  That eased some stress because we didn’t want to land in FL only to learn we were asymptomatically positive and pretty much out of luck to cruise!  

 

https://www.royalcaribbean.com/faq/questions/if-need-an-rt-pcr-test-before-i-cruise-where-should-i-go

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Pre cruise stay
We stayed the night before at the new Hampton Inn in Port Canaveral.  Totally happy with that decision and will stay there again for future cruises – clean, nice pool, friendly check in, and nice rooms!  We had rented a car at Orlando airport and returned it to the Enterprise location at the port, which just opened back up about two weeks before our cruise!  Finally we also ate at a new location to us – Seafood Atlantic- the night before the cruise.  We watched the empty Disney Fantasy leave port while eating an amazing meal and we were happy to be supporting these local businesses around the port that have missed tourists for so many months!

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Embarkation
Why was I so stressed about embarkation?  I didn’t know what to expect and I like to be prepared!  I hope this report helps you know what to expect in the coming weeks…although I imagine that could change.  We got a boarding time of 1:30. As people who normally arrive at 10am it seemed like we waited forever. We dropped off the car at Enterprise and got to check in around 12:45…and figured we’d see if what they would say when we walked up. 

 

No one seemed to mind that we had arrived  but it was all very different.  First there was no suite check in. There was a flag for star class guests but nothing for suite or sky class overall. I’m not complaining as it was their second sailing back and I could tell everyone was working hard to do it right.  I do think they should let you know that it is not there right now, as it is listed as a suite benefit. 

 

There was now a queue line outside where you were asked to show your COVID test results to several different agents before even entering the building.  Someone here recommended printing the results if you could and I think that was helpful so you didn’t need to switch between screens on the phone…plus the printout had larger print for them to look for the info they cared about- date of test- to be sure it was three days or less and the word negative and your name.  That queue outside took about 10 minutes. I took a few quick pics out there

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The next step was right inside for the document checks – the Vaccine card, the COVID test results, and the passports.  Your party was escorted to an agent where they first checked your COVID test results again.  Then they asked for each guest’s vaccine card, they took a picture of it with a check-in ipad and asked you to attest to it being “real”.  Here we got a white wrist band signifying we were vaccinated.  

 

@fishpick was prepared with his new vaccine card/passport holder

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Then we were guided to the Xray machines and after that we were taken upstairs in the terminal.  From entering the queue outside to going upstairs had taken about 15 minutes.  We then were brought to another agent who checked us in, scanned our set sail pass and gave us a tracelet- tracing bracelet (can see it in green above) to wear for the week. It reminded me kind of like a magic band at Disney.   From there they had us walk to the last checkpoint where they checked for our white bracelet and the tracelet and checked our COVID test paper one last time…as well as our set sail pass again…and then we were boarding a ship again for the first time in…forever!

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Looking forward to your review.  We’re on Oasis in a suite on 9/26 and love reading different experiences.  
 

I’m surprised you had so much trouble finding a rapid antigen test in New York.  I have at least 3 locations within 30 minutes of my house in NH and my mom has at least 3 within 20 minutes of her house in CT.

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We were on the same cruise.  Myself (56), wife (48), and son (12).  Two worst parts of the trip - were packing on day 7 to have the luggage ready for pick up, and the crowded, hot, tarmac delayed flight home.

 

Check-in was quick.  Make sure to keep your test results and vaccine cards handy.  We had to fish them out three different times.  But were onboard twenty minutes or so after going through the xray machines.  First beverage in the Schooner Bar by 1:15 pm

 

No crowding in any of the venues.  Never did we have to wait 3 or 4 deep for bar service.  There was very often 3 or 4 people at bar.  No chair hogging, no crowded elevators, etc.  

 

Shows very excellent, food very good, and the staff top notch.  Everyone greeted you, asked how you were doing, and did you need anything from them.

 

Cleaning was going on non-stop.  Wiping down chairs when you left, cleaning  your sea pass card when you had it swiped at the casino, even cleaning the ladders in and out of pools!  Most of the dining venues never took our sea passes and just wrote down our cabin numbers.

 

The staff did remind people to wear their masks when in public spaces.  But weren't chasing people down or hauling anyone away.  

 

The OP hit the title on the head - 'tell them its safe'.  Personally we felt safer on the Allure then the flight home ......

 

 

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2 minutes ago, geishagirl2 said:

Can the tracelet and wristband be removed while in your room?  Not a fan of having to sleep in them.  

We took ours off when we called it a night;  a few times we had to turn around and fetch them from the room when heading out in the morning but no alarms were sounded.  

 

We did receive conflict instructions - at check-in the staff there said to take them off in the pools and when showering.  But when we were at the pools, the life guards sent us out to put them back on.

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Posted (edited)

OnBoard Thoughts/Experiences

First things first- MAN, it felt good to be back on a ship!  We loved the food, the crew, our cabin, the pool, the weather, the ports, the drinks…etc!  
There ended up being about 1500 people on our sailing!  It was crazy to hear that! Our last cruise before COVID was on Allure in January of 2020 and it was near capacity then…so it is hard to describe how very empty the ship often felt.  

The crew
All crew members we encountered were happy to be back and genuinely thanking us for coming back as well.  More than once we were told to let others know it is safe (reference to my post title).  Many have really struggled during these long months of COVID…unlike what many in the US can even imagine. On a cruise, there is such a pleasant demeanor among the crew, an eagerness to please and make your vacation amazing…and I had forgotten how great that felt and how relaxing it makes your time onboard!

The Windjammer 
The WJ was the same great food- just served to you instead which I ended up enjoying. We actually really enjoy the WJ food – especially the Indian food and they even have good fish! I should mention that I have my doctorate in Microbiology so I see the world through a different lens.  I have always been impressed with Royal’s protocols and cleanliness but people can be just plain gross…and I’ve seen some nasty stuff at the buffets…so not touching the same serving utensils as everyone else was fine with me!  There were tables marked as not available to keep distancing.  The windjammer wasn’t open at dinner and it was never slammed with people. I can see once capacity ramps up, that it will be difficult to keep the closed tables for distancing and keep it all moving while serving everyone.  I imagine that is why they will have reservations for Windjammer.  By the way –have I mentioned that the food was fantastic?!!  We spent less lunches at Park Café and more at WJ since future cruises will be more crowded and bring us back to Park Café.  (By the way, the roast beef sandwiches are still there and good as ever!)

Fitness Center
We work out regularly and the Fitness Center was really no different than before except that there were early and late hours that welcomed both vaccinated and unvaccinated and during that time you needed to mask in there.  Starting at 8am, the fitness center was for vaccinated only and no mask was required.  With the low capacity it was never too busy in there – the low capacity was a true plus in the fitness center. 

Pools/pool deck/solarium 
This might be the greatest part of the low capacity! I took a few pics to show what it was like on deck.  On several sea days, you could arrive to the pool deck or solarium at 10 or 12 or 1 and pick whatever chair you wanted!  It was a dream!  Most times when we got in a hot tub, we were the only ones in there!  This will never happen again so we savored the experience!

 

Sea Day #1 at 11am!
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Solarium at 1pm later in the week!

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Edited by luckyfincruiser
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Great report and review. Thank you for your detailed reporting of the check-in process. It really helps to know what people will expect in upcoming cruises. Cheers to you for doing this. Have a Kraken Colada.

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Ports of Call/Excursions
I believe that if you weren’t vaccinated you needed to take an RC excursion.  We just got off the ship in Costa Maya and went to the little beach in the port.  It was fine.

 

Taking the tram down the dock to Costa Maya port

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How can you complain about a cold beer on the beach in the shade on a hot day...while on a cruise?!

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In Roatan, we booked our own excursion to Daniel Johnson’s Sloth and Monkey Hangout.  What a great place!  So well organized and clean and a great staff.  We booked just the transport there.  We met them outside the port gate where they waited for us with a sign. 

In talking with locals, it is evident how difficult (understatement) the past year has been.  It really isn’t easier for them now.  Many people don’t show for excursions…and many people aren’t sure it is safe or they are just hesitant to leave the port or to book non-ship excursions.  I can tell you it felt totally safe!  Again, I observe everything through the eyes of a microbiologist.  I do not feel extreme “worry” about COVID right now, but if you do, it felt VERY safe on the island.  Our driver wore a mask the whole time.  They had masking at the hangout…although a monkey ripped mine off and ran away with it – LOL.  I don’t know that you HAD to mask but you could and there was lots of distance. I do not like masking but I try to read the situations I am in right now to decide what is preferred – especially while traveling because we need the tourism industry to succeed!  I highly recommend this place for an excursion … in fact it was one of my more favorite things we have done (and this is coming from someone who is an animal lover and who isn’t really a zoo fan in general).  

 

Proud monkey with my mask!

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Sloths are amazing and adorable!

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And did I mention the sloths just live in the mangrove trees?  No cages!  They just have to watch that they don't swim away.  I guess that is one thing they CAN do "fast"! 

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When returning to the port, there were a lot of locals asking if we wanted to go anywhere else, trying to drum up business etc. They were very friendly and as we were walking back into the gate, one guy said to me, “can you tell the others on the ship that it is safe for them to come out here and to visit us?”  The sad way in which he said it broke my heart and made me happy we took the excursion that day.  I encourage you to support the locals any way you can.  I am a college professor and my work totally changed this past 1.5 years with stress and hurdles but it is NOTHING compared to what so many people have lived through.  

 

We also visited CocoCay and this was our first time here since it was redone.  We got day passes to the Coco Beach Club and loved it!!! The food is SO good!  The space is beautiful!  Relaxing and fun day!   A few pics below:

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15 hours ago, Jkaczanowski said:

Looking forward to your review.  We’re on Oasis in a suite on 9/26 and love reading different experiences.  
 

I’m surprised you had so much trouble finding a rapid antigen test in New York.  I have at least 3 locations within 30 minutes of my house in NH and my mom has at least 3 within 20 minutes of her house in CT.

Hi Where do you live in NH?I am in Acworth and been looking for a place to do antigen test.Most are only doing PCR!!!

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1 minute ago, CruiserCindy said:

Hi Where do you live in NH?I am in Acworth and been looking for a place to do antigen test.Most are only doing PCR!!!

We live in NY - western NY.  We didn't do antigen test- did a NAAT test at walgreens.  No antigen tests near us.

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Those sloths look so cute 😍. I am on Allure Oct 31st and since we are vax, we plan to get off and support the locals in as much as we can. I really appreciate your review. The few about Allure I have read really didn't answer much or give me the illusion that I was on the ship. 

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Definitions from the FDA site to help with the NAAT versus PCR versus Antigen testing deciphering.

 

  • Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR): one type of molecular diagnostic test
  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT): one type of molecular diagnostic test
  • Antigen Test: a diagnostic test that detects specific proteins from the virus

Copied from: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/coronavirus-disease-2019-testing-basics

 

Cheatsheet I have been using to explain the various types of testing (OP got a different type of the molecular testing than the usual "PCR" molecular test):

COVID-19%20Testing%20types%2011.16.20%20

 

OP, thank you for this review.  I appreciate it! 🙂

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Posted (edited)
18 hours ago, luckyfincruiser said:

We had rented a car at Orlando airport and returned it to the Enterprise location at the port

could you please tell me if it's this location:

 

710 Mullet Rd

Cape Canaveral, FL 32920

 

and how did you get from there to the ship? Is there a shuttle? Taxi? Doesn't look like it's a walking distance.

 

I think I may have found the info:

 

COURTESY SHUTTLE IS PROVIDED FROM PORT CANAVERAL TO RENTAL OFFICE. WE ARE LOCATED 4 MILES FROM PORT CANAVERAL. SHUTTLES RUN EVERY 30 MINUTES DURING REGULAR OFFICE HOURS. EACH CRUISE SHIP HAS A SPECIFIC PICKUP AREA WHERE OUR SHUTTLE WILL MEET YOU.

 

is that right?

Edited by Itchy&Scratchy
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Just now, Itchy&Scratchy said:

could you please tell me if it's this location:

 

710 Mullet Rd

Cape Canaveral, FL 32920

 

and how did you get from there to the ship? Is there a shuttle? Taxi? Doesn't look like it's a walking distance.

They have a shuttle

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Thanks for the report!

 

Do you (or anyone else who has recently sailed) know if the crew onboard want anything other than money right now? Obviously we're going to tip more than normal, but there have been reports that it's harder for the crew to get off the boat and shop lately and we'd love to bring them any toiletries or random supplies they may need as well as cash!

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