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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Allure of the Seas: A high energy, warm, friendly and spirited social environment for people of all ages, but especially for families who want it all. Fun for the kids and adults too!

 Ask The Experts :
All About Royal Caribbean Cruises Allure of the Seas - Super Cruise Review
April 10, 2011 - Raye and Marty Trencher, Editors and Publishers, Cruise Traveler Magazine

Allure of the Seas
Super Cruise Review Of The World's Largest Cruise Ship
STATEROOMS, ENTERTAINMENT, ACTIVITIES, PORTS OF CALL and DINING OPTIONS 


To read the complete review, with photo's from the ship and pictures we took, visit:

"Allure of the Seas provides a high energy, warm, friendly and spirited social environment for people of all ages, but especially for families who want it all. Fun for the kids and adults too!"

From Our Notebook: When a new cruise ship is placed in service, often, the cruise line will invite members of the Press, VIPs, and Travel Agents aboard for a short 2 day "familiarization" cruise to "nowhere" prior to taking on paid guests.  Shortly thereafter, dozens of so-called cruise reviews appear all over the internet.  And, if you've read most of them, you suspect they are nothing more than a repeat of the ship's features and highlights right out of the brochure. Maybe helpful, but short on insight.


These reviews tell you what you'll see and do onboard, but rarely do they take you on an in-depth tour of the ship, take you behind the scenes, nor comment on the cruising experience from a consumers point of view.

Let's face it, there is not much you can learn about a cruise ship, especially the world's largest cruise ship, in just 2 days.  Plus, the staff knows your a VIP, so their interaction with you is not necessarily what paying passengers might experience on a full 7 day cruise.

When we write an in-depth cruise review, we evaluate a new cruise ship from the consumer's perspective, looking at not only the onboard venues, but the ports of call and service levels that you would typically encounter on your 7 day voyage. Thus, rather that taking the 2 day "junket" and writing a review based on a 2 day high-speed tour, we chose to book the cruise at our own expense, in this case a 7 day Western Caribbean cruise [ March 27, 2011 ], so we can, and you can, fully appreciate the experience as a cruise traveler. We also preferred to wait a few months from the inaugural to sail on the vessel. That way, the staff has time to adjust to their new surroundings and management has an opportunity to work on polishing up all the details.

It's Your Once In A Lifetime Cruise Vacation!

Chances are you've saved up for months, even years, to splurge on perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime cruise vacation. You don't want to be disappointed. We understand.  Thus, the timing of our sailing and this feature story are in-depth "super" cruise review of Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas.  Super, because like the ship, this is no ordinary review.

And, if you're thinking Raye & I got some insider deal, or travel industry discount on this cruise, think again. We paid full price. All total, we spent nearly $4800 on the cruise fare, airfare, taxes, specialty restuarants, spa, photo's and more. 

As cruise travelers, we understand with so many travel options out there, it can be overwhelming.  So, let our cruise review help you plan a more rewarding and fulfilling cruise experience.

Now, everything you read here is just our opinion. You should not just rely on what we think. Read more reviews. Talk to your neighbors or friends who've been on the ship. Way all the pros and cons, then decide if this ship is right for you and your family.

When you read one of our cruise reviews, you can be confident that what you read will help you perfectly plan your vacation,  make it hassle-free, and that your cruise will be filled with moments and memories you’ll never forget.

"Twenty years from now, you will be most disappointed by the things you did not do, then by the things you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover" -Mark Twain

THIS MONTH'S FEATURED CRUISE SHIP - ALLURE of The SEAS                        
Each month we feature a different cruise ship. Perhaps the latest, greatest, biggest one afloat or a more intimate new yacht-like vessel. If your interested in sailing on the latest cruise ships you came to the right place.


Let's Get Started Here...
Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas Cruise Review.
Stateroom, Activities, Ports of Call, Entertainment and Dining Options. The World's largest cruise ship!

March 27, 2011 - Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas
Roundtrip Ft. Lauderdale - 7 Days - Western Caribbean
Ports-of-Call: Labadee, Haiti: Falmouth, Jamaica: Cozumel, Mexico

Read on. Then, let us know what you think. We value your opinion.


Departure Port : Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Along with the world's largest cruise ship, you need the world’s largest cruise terminal.

The new $75 million Port Everglades terminal in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was expanded to more than three times its original size, big enough so arriving and departing passengers can go through processing procedures quickly. 90 check-in counters were built to speed passengers through the check-in process in 15 minutes or less. Our timing: 12 Minutes. Fastest boarding process we have ever experienced! Even less time to disembark.


CRUISE HOPPER HINT:  It could take as long as four hours for your luggage to reach your stateroom. So be sure to take what you need in a carry-on, or you might find yourself with out the proper change of clothes for dinner. Remember with over 6,000 guests it could be as much as 15,000 pieces of luggage to deliver. No doubt, it is the biggest collection of luggage ever at sea.  ( our luggage arrived within 90 minutes of the time we came onboard )

Day Before Arrival: We recommend you arrive in Ft. Lauderdale the day before the ship sails. Especially if you are traveling during the Winter months. As we all know, weather can play havoc with flight schedules.  Departures due to mechanical problems with aircraft often occur.  Travel time from your home town to the departure port could be as much as 5-7 hours. The ship sets sail on time, so if you are delayed and arrive at the pier late, you may find yourself waving goodbye at the pier as the ship sails off into the sunset.

There are a number of hotels in and around the airport and cruise port in Ft. Lauderdale. We stayed at the Hampton Inn. Reasonably priced, they included a complimentary breakfast and free internet connection. They will pick you at the airport and take you to the pier at no charge, in one of their hard to miss Pink Flamingo courtesy vans/

Allure of the Seas

This ship is unique in it's own right!

As you can see from the photo above, Allure of the Seas "open in the middle" superstructure features a sixty foot wide, open-air center. The ship’s upper 10 decks feature inside balcony staterooms overlooking Central Park and the Boardwalk. These separate port and starboard sides separate this ship from any you have ever seen!

We recommend you take your time to explore the magnificent features and facilities that Allure of the Seas has to offer. Don't go running around the entire ship when you first come aboard in Ft. Lauderdale. There is simply so much to see and do.  Pace yourself.  To make the most of your time on board, we suggest you pick up a copy of the  "Live The Allure" Ship Guide. This self-guided interactive tour of the ship will help you explore and discover the ship. The book contains fun facts, behind-the-scenes stories, great pictures and serves as a great memento of your cruise vacation.

As you explore the ship, if you lose site of where you are, take a look at the deck numbers in each lobby area. There's a circular sign with a little arrow. This arrow always points forward. Use the touch screens located at each bank of elevators to find any venue. Touch one on the list and a map with directions from where you are to where you want to go, appears.

By The Numbers:
Allure of the Seas
Staterooms: 2,706
Passenger capacity: 6,296
Number of employees: 2,165
Restaurants/snack bars: 24
Cost to build: $1.4 billion
Starting price cost for a seven-night Caribbean cruise in March: $1,260,
per person plus taxes, for a Balcony stateroom. ( less for an inside  cabin )


"There never seem to be crowds or long lines. Amazing for a ship of it's size".
Check out the new tech features such as the touch screen touch-screen panels near each elevator bank - you can type in your cabin number and it gives you directions or you can pull up the daily activity sheet or dining options. Also on the sea pass card is a photo gallery #. This coordinates with folders in the photo gallery. Each time your picture is taken onboard, your card is scanned and the picture ends up in your folder. So, by the end of the cruise, all pictures are in one place and all you have to do is go find your folder.

Royal Caribbean's Allure Of The Seas,
 The World's Largest Ocean Liner.
( by 2 inches! )

Spanning 16 decks, 2,700 staterooms including 28 duplex "New York-style loft" suites and registered at 225,000 tons, On our cruise Allure carried 6,100 passengers and has seven distinct neighborhoods .

It has a rock climbing wall, ice-skating rink, Flow rider surf simulators , a zip line suspended 9 decks high and an aqua theater.  Showcasing seven entire neighborhoods, including a Central Park and a Coney Island-style Boardwalk.

21 swimming pools and hot tubs, two rock-climbing walls, a basketball court, golf course, running track, gym and a day spa that provides everything from teeth-whitening to couples massages.

Right In The Neighborhood
Allure of the Seas has zones or separate areas for different activities. This helps spread out 6.100 guests who were aboard our sailing, so the the ship seemed much smaller than it really is. These zones, themed “neighborhoods.”  as they are known onboard, include: Central Park, Boardwalk, Royal Promenade, Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and the Youth Zone.  Boardwalk, Royal Promenade and Central Park — are the most interesting.  There, you will find a  variety of accommodations, activities, shops and restaurants.


Cruise Hopper TiP:

There is also a Youth Zone (children and teen areas), a huge Pool and Sports Zone.  You will find 4 large pools,  including a Beach Pool featuring a gently sloping "shore" leading down the water for beachside sun bathing at sea! With a total of 21 pools and hot tubs, each pool offers a particular type of watery fun and relaxation .  On deck 16 forward, is The Solarium, an adult dedicated area where you can enjoy  some peace and tranquility surrounded by views of the ocean.  There's a small pool, waterfall, and two serene whirlpools, streams of running water with a faux rock bottom and shady palms. The area is virtually covered in glass,  so the temperature is several degrees warmer than at the other pool areas. More about the ship's neighborhoods later on.




ALLURE of the SEAS - FAST FACTS
225,282 GRT ● 1,187 feet (360 meters) long ● 208 feet (64meters) wide
213 feet (65 meters) high from the water line ● 30 feet (9.1 meters) draft ● 22.6 knots cruising speed 16 passenger decks ● 24 passenger elevators ● 4 bow thrusters with 7,500 horse power each 5,400 guests (double occupancy) ● 6,296 guests total ● 2,165 crew (From over 71 countries) The ship's population of 8,461, which comprises all those passengers,
plus 2,165 crew, is bigger than some small towns in America!


Allure of the SEAS Cruise Review
STATEROOM, ENTERTAINMENT and DINING OPTIONS


STATEROOM CHOICES
Total Staterooms: 2,706 ● Balcony: 1,956 ●Outside: 254 ● Interior: 496
Staterooms with additional berths: 683 · Wheelchair accessible staterooms: 46

CRUISE HOPPER TiP:  Stateroom costs will run 15-20 percent more to sail on the Allure compared to other Royal Caribbean ships.  Interior cabins starting at $729 per person, $979 for balcony staterooms.  Prices vary by stateroom location, season and sailing date. Mini Suites, Suites and Loft Staterooms will cost you more.  Much, much more. Be sure to ask if any promotional fares are available if you are a senior,  a member of the military or reside in a state with a promotional fare. Interior balcony staterooms recently were offered with as much as $200 onboard spending credit to spur on sales.

Royal Caribbean Brings Urban Living Concept to Sea with Cruise Industry’s First Lofts

The evolution of cruise ship hardware has been mindboggling over the past few decades, especially in the realm of accommodations. Inspired by urban living ideals, Royal Caribbean broke the mold yet again with the introduction of the industry’s first two-level loft suites on Oasis of the Seas and followed suit on Allure. Think funky city apartment, only this one floats and happens to have incredible sea views from double-height windows.

Dramatically redefining cruise ship accommodations, the lofts are the highest accommodations at sea and offer spectacular views of the ocean with floor-to-ceiling windows, ensuring the view will be enjoyed from every corner of the space. Other features among these coveted 28 lofts include a unique modern design accented with abstract, modern art pieces, spacious living areas on the lower level with contemporary detailing, and a private balcony with sun chairs and stunning views to help guests unwind. “We have 28 loft suites and when I first saw them, I immediately wished we had built more,” said Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

CRUISE HOPPER TiP: Allure of the Seas has 2,706 staterooms, ranging from a 149-square-foot interior cabin to the luxurious Royal Loft Suite that can accommodate six.  On most ships all balconies face the ocean, but on Allure, they not only face the ocean, some are interior balconies overlooking the open-air Boardwalk and Central Park neighborhoods. Families should consider staterooms in the Boardwalk neighborhood, while the more upscale Central Park area is best for couples.


Fresh, chic and super functional, each loft measures 545 square feet (51 square meters) and larger. The impressive design includes an upper-level bedroom that overlooks the living area below. The downstairs sitting area has a couch, chaise lounge, LCD television, guest bathroom, 17-foot windows and balcony that opens up to sweeping sea views. Up top, the loft bed floats like a dream behind transparent panels for open views through the floor-to-ceiling windows -- wake up and soak up the scenery without even hopping out of bed. The upstairs master bathroom features his and her shower heads, fog-free mirrors, and limestone mosaic tile detailing. Beds are outfitted with white, luxurious duvets complemented by tropical blue and green accents that tie in to the loft’s natural surroundings. The signature lofts rounds out a new portfolio of 37 categories of accommodation options, many with views unique to Allure of the Seas.


Following is a breakdown of the various accommodation types along with the features that matter most:

Loft Suites
• Royal Loft Suite: In addition to the 25 Crown Loft Suites onboard Allure of the Seas, the exclusive Royal Loft Suite accommodates groups of six and is the largest of all lofts onboard Allure of the Seas. Spanning 1,524 sq. ft. (141 sq. m.), it features its own Baby Grand piano, indoor and outdoor dining rooms that seat eight, private wet bar, a library and extended 843-square-foot (78.3-square-meter) balcony with its own LCD television, entertainment area and Jacuzzi. The Royal Loft Suite can be connected to a Crown Loft Suite to accommodate a total of ten guests, providing a whopping 2,069 sq. ft. (192 sq. m.) of space.

Allure of the Seas’ Suite Accommodations
• Sky Loft Suite: The Sky Loft Suites are larger than the standard lofts and though they stand as singular units, these staterooms can be connected together to satisfy larger groups and families. The Sky Loft Suites, identified as Corner A (722 sq. ft./67 sq. m.) and Corner B (770 sq. ft./71 sq. m.), feature more living room space, separate dining rooms that seat four, spacious balconies with sun loungers, and dining tables that seat four.
• Crown Accessible Loft Suite: The Crown Accessible Loft features the same amenities as the standard Crown Loft Suites, but measures slightly larger, at 737 sq. ft. (68 sq. m.), and offers an elevator for the convenience of guests with special needs.

In addition to the loft suite accommodations, Allure of the Seas offers a variety of suites that appeal to guests looking for extra space and even more amenities and services than offered at the standard stateroom level. While each suite varies in scope, all of the following suites provide guests with private balconies, LCD televisions and more.

• Royal Suite: The only one of its kind on Allure of the Seas , this spacious suite sleeps four and features one bedroom, two baths, a separate living area with its own Baby Grand piano, plush seating, a full bar, and a 52” LCD television. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors lead to the suite’s large outdoor balcony with woven chaise lounges. The private master suite offers an alternative sitting area with large windows facing the sea and a large jetted tub to help guests unwind after an action-packed day.

• Presidential Family Suite: Another one-of-a-kind accommodation onboard Allure of the Seas., it can sleep 14. With a total of four bedrooms and four baths, the space is similar to the Presidential Family Suite onboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom-class ships. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows face the ocean and a spacious balcony provides enough room for the entire group to enjoy the outdoor dining area, large LCD screen, and private jetted tub.

• AquaTheater Suite: All six of the AquaTheater Suites available onboard Allure of the Seas feature private wrap-around balconies overlooking the Boardwalk, the AquaTheater, and the ocean, offering outdoor ocean-front dining areas for six, and an outdoor bar ideal for entertaining. These new family suites accommodate up to eight guests and have two bedrooms and two full baths.

• Owner’s Suite: Each of the 10 owner’s suites accommodates four guests and is designed with one bedroom, living room and bath. Guests are pampered with a private balcony, outdoor dining table for four and an interior sitting area with a convertible queen sleeper sofa for two.

• Royal Family Suite: Sleeping eight, Allure of the Seas’ Family Suites with balcony feature a master bedroom and bath and a guest room with private bath. All four suites also offer a private balcony with outdoor dining and lounge area that seats four.

• Grand Suite: The Grand Suites with balconies are the most abundant suite accommodations available on Allure of the Seas. The 30 suites feature one bedroom, full bath, and a separate living area outfitted in contemporary décor, with stonework used throughout the entry and bathrooms. Private balconies boast not only great views, but comfy woven chaise lounge chairs and a whirlpool tub for two.

• Outside-Inside Balcony Staterooms: Allure of the Seas has two distinct neighborhoods, where staterooms are open to the sky above. Boardwalk ( shown below ) and Central Park have hundred's of these most unusual accommodations.

Inside balconies set the framework for the Boardwalk neighborhood; with Rita's Cantina, Johnny Rockets, The Carousel, Donut Shop, Hot Dog Stand, Shops and the AquaTheatre.

These balcony staterooms may not be for you... If you enjoy looking out into the ocean, want complete privacy and don't want to have to close your curtains each evening, an ocean facing balcony may be best for you. However, if you like to look out and see what the rest of your fellow passengers are doing and don't mind the fact that others can look in on you, then these staterooms give you a birds eye view of what's happening along the Boardwalk, the AquaTheatre or down Central Park.

We don't recommend these staterooms if you have young children. They could become easily distracted by the noise, and may not be able to nap properly.  For a few hundred dollars more,  you can have all privacy you want and ever-changing views of the ocean.  Ocean viewing is great for an early morning breakfast watching the sun rise or romantic moonlight gazing at night off your balcony.

Not everyone can afford a suite!Those interested in reserving a standard stateroom aboard Allure of the Seas – interior or ocean view, with or without balconies – enjoy the same level of stateroom innovations found in the suite and loft suite categories onboard.  In particular, the bedroom area of all staterooms feature additional under-bed storage, shelf units, expansive closets that include retractable clothing and shoe shelves, and flip up bedside tables to provide more space and functionality as needed. The bathrooms feature a fresh design concept, providing an open space feel with clear glass shower enclosure, and additional shelves and ledges throughout. What about accommodations for the rest of us?

ENTERTAINMENT and DINING OPTIONSWhen she arrived in Ft. Lauderdale in December 2010, Royal Caribbean International’s newest ship, Allure of the Seas, introduced the most unique and varied collection of entertainment and activities ever offered for guests of the cruise line. From Broadway shows and heart-pounding diving and acrobatic exhibitions, to comedy acts and popular theme nights and parades, the world’s largest and most revolutionary cruise ship really does offer something to entertain all ages, interests and personalities.

The AquaTheater - a pool by day, theater by night - offers spectacular sea-side entertainment in a venue so technologically advanced it will amaze your eyes and your senses. Plus, with two Rock-Climbing Walls, a thrilling Zip Line suspended across the Boardwalk, loft suites and a two-story, adults-only solarium - there’s only one word to describe this ship - incredible! >>

As the first theater of its kind, this dazzling oceanfront amphitheatre-style venue is the home to one of the most incredible, jaw-dropping shows we have ever seen at sea. Seating 600 guests and boasting the largest and deepest pool at sea, ( 17.9 ft ) containing near 500 tons of water.  AquaTheater hosts a variety of entertainment, including live music, fun themed events, fountain shows and cabarets, with the most exciting attractions being two elaborate dive shows that take place each day and night.

• OceanAria: Set against the backdrop of the ocean beneath the twinkling nighttime sky, two towering dive platforms some 59ft above the water level frame the amphitheatre. This breathtaking dive show will leave you wowed after every performance. The most professional and talented cast of Olympic and NCAA champion athletes from around the world were selected for this show, including divers, synchronized swimmers and gymnasts. Set to an original soundtrack and synchronized with fountain shows, lighting and special effects, the all-star cast performs a heart-pounding, dramatic spectacular, making this majestic venue come alive and will bring you to your feet will applause. Often.

• Let You Entertain Me: A Dreamworks Animation inspired production features characters from the movie Madagascar and OceanAria in a fun filled show with aquatic stunts and acrobatics. Great fun for the whole family.
 
Also taking place at the AquaTheatre: fountain shows, live afternoon music, singing performances. Even a belly-flop contest you can join! The Cruise Director, hosts a Q&A session with the Captain and Officers of the ship.

Amusements for Adults Chicago: the Musical stars performers from Broadway and West End productions and costs no extra. The Blue Planet aerial acrobatic show has some truly magnificent sets. Again, costs no more.
Arguably, these shows set the highest standard we've seen at sea. 

The AMBER Theater
As the cruise line’s most dramatic and spectacular theater yet, the Amber Theater features a thrust stage and a proscenium extending into the audience to create one of the more interactive environments we have ever seen at sea.  Seating 1,350 guests, the Amber Theater presents three different shows, each performed several times throughout each sailing :  Broadway's razzle-dazzle hit musical CHICAGO is no doubt be one of the star attractions onboard Allure of the Seas. Licensed exclusively to Royal Caribbean, the show is  90 minutes long. Set amidst the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s, CHICAGO is the story of Roxie Hart, a housewife and nightclub dancer who murders her lover after he threatens to walk out on her. Desperate to avoid conviction, she dupes the public, the media and her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly, by hiring CHICAGO's slickest criminal lawyer to transform her malicious crime into a barrage of sensational headlines, the likes of which might just as easily be ripped from today's tabloids.  Boasting an incredible cast of talented performers, who were selected during a four city audition tour in London, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, this fabulous 90-minute show was performed four times throughout our cruise and will thrill audiences with original costumes, sets, lighting designs and the hottest, high-energy numbers of the Broadway version produced with Royal Caribbean’s unique stamp.

CRUISE HOPPER TiP:  Zach Stafford, Allure of The Seas Activities Manager told us the most important thing a guest could do is to be sure to check out and use the online reservations system ( http://www.royalcaribbean.com/  ) for shows, spa, specialty restaurants and other activities.

"Book your shows and dining choices as early as possible. If you wait until you get onboard you may be disappointed when you can't get in to see the show when you want, or dine at the hour of your choice at a specialty restaurant" he said.  

Our advice: When you make a reservation online for the shows, it goes on your SeaPass card. When you get to the show, the crew is waiting with handheld scanners - they scan your card and see that you have a reservation and you're in.  "walk-ins" are not seated until everyone with reservations is seated.

What's a SeaPass Card?
Allure of the Seas operates on a "cashless" system, meaning your boarding card, (also known as your SeaPass card), will be used as a charge card to make all onboard purchases. Normally to activate this SeaPass account, most guests provide a credit card, (American Express, Optima, MasterCard, Visa, Discover and Diner's Club), to have these purchases charged to at the end of their cruise.  A running tab of all your purchases will be kept under separate folio numbers for each guest and an itemized statement left in your stateroom the night before disembarkation. If you provided a credit card and there are no discrepancies, the amount will be charged to your account on the morning of disembarkation.


• Blue Planet:  A spectacle of music, dance and aerial acrobatics, within an amazing set which replicates the wonders of the world. From giant mountains to underwater scenes ( see photo above )  and an incredible "living" Tree, ( see our photo ) It's a journey of soaring heights, interactive video and powerful singing and dancing during this spectacular 45-minute show, which was performed four times during each cruise. This was our favorite show . We recommend you book it in advance, at www.royalcaribbean.com  BEFORE you leave home.  The show Brings the Amber Theater to life, this visually stunning show combines the unique aerial, dance, gymnastic and vocal talents of Royal Caribbean’s incredible cast, coupled with the immense talent of the cruise line’s award winning costume, video and scenic designers.  This show is mesmerizing. Don't miss it!


• Headliner Showtime: Offered three times throughout each cruise,  guests are entertained by  fabulous acts taking the stage at the Amber Theater, including world class singers, musicians, magic and juggling acts.


On our cruise, we had an opportunity to visit with one of our favorites: Tribute. The guys perform a Salute to the Temptations.  No doubt you may have seen them before. The group has been together for 19 years and performed on a number of cruise ships. When they sing ' The Way You Do The Things You Do" and " You're My everything", you could swear they were the Temptations.


Fun For The Whole Family


DreamWorks® movie characters come to life on board.

Royal Caribbean International and DreamWorks Animation® teamed up to bring families memorable moments filled with your favorite characters from Shrek®, Madagascar®, Kung Fu Panda™ and more. From 3D movies to ice and aqua shows, the DreamWorks® Experience is exclusively onboard Royal Caribbean ships.  It's amazing how the Dreamworks® Animation characters appeal to guests of all ages. We saw hundreds of Adults without children lined up along the parade route as much as an hour prior to the start of the festivities.

There they are: Shrek, Princess  Fiona, Puss in Boots, Po from Kung Fu Panda, King Julian, The Penguins and more. The cast of characters host a sailaway party, perform in parades, an ice show, an aqua show and host character breakfasts with your kids. When you least expect it, one of them appears to greet you and your children and pose for pictures.

The Dreamworks® highlight is a 20-minute paradealong the Royal Promenade.
 
CRUISE HOPPER TiP: For the best view of the parade, get  seats in front of Sorrento's Pizza Parlor. That puts your family  "center stage" to see the parade up close.

Let You Entertain Me: The  Madagascar-themed show is a spectacle of penguins, high divers , acrobats and synchronized  swimmers held in the open-air, oceanfront AquaTheatre. 

How to Train Your Dragon© is also aimed at young ones and is staged on the ship's ice rink.  The story revolves around a hapless young Viking who aspires to hunt dragons who becomes the unlikely friend of a young dragon himself, and learns there may be more to these creatures than he thought.

Madagascar Aqua Show: Performed three times each cruise, this themed show  is light-hearted and humorous dive show provides fun and surprises the whole family will enjoy.  The Aqua Theater’s cast of divers and Madagascar Characters  showcase their comedic sides, combining crazy poolside antics with exhibition Olympic-style diving, all performed to an upbeat and dramatic soundtrack.

CRUISE HOPPER TiP: The first three rows are considered  in the "splash zone", so if you don't want to get wet, sit about 6 rows up - center stage, best seats in the house!

Studio BIce Shows

Impressive is an understatement. These incredible ice shows feature a cast of professional skaters from around the world. On Allure of the Seas guests enjoy a spectacular ice show featuring the characters from "How to train A Dragon".

Ice-Skating
When the professionals aren't practicing or putting on one of their remarkable shows, Allure has open skating hours for onboard guests. There's no charge to use the rink, no reservations necessary and all levels of skating are welcome - they even provide the skates.

First time on the ice? They  offer skating lessons for beginners. Or, if you've been at this for a while, you can join u special Advanced Skating Sessions. They also offer Family Skating, Teen Skating, and even Disco or Rock 'n' Roll Skating. All skaters are requested to wear long pants and socks for their own comfort and safety.

• How To Train Your Dragon Ice Show: This Dreamworks animation adventure takes to the ice during a breathtaking show of spectacular choreography, theatrics, costumes and music.  Highlighting the adventures of Hiccup the Viking Boy and Toothless the Dragon. Performed by The Allure of the Seas International Ice Cast, the show features top-rated figure skaters from around the world, this not-to-be-missed ice show will be available several times during each cruise.

• Ice Games: See the classic board game Monopoly brought to life in a fantasy tale which features amazing costumes, video and lighting effects to enchant and entertain.

• Rock and Roll and 70's Disco: Themed Skate Sessions. Skate to your favorite tunes and lessons are available too.

Comedy LiveLocated in the Entertainment Place neighborhood, Comedy Live is one of the signature after-dark venues onboard Allure of the Seas. The adult comedy club is a fun and intimate space with décor inspired by a New York subway station.

• Comedy Shows: Nightly performances by talented stand-up comics will provide sidesplitting laughs and antics. Two comedians will take the stage each night during one-hour long shows performed two to three times nightly.

Theme Nights and ParadesWith a Royal Promenade almost double the width of those found onboard Voyager- and Freedom-class ships, Allure of the Seas continues the tradition of Royal Caribbean’s signature theme nights and parades, and make them even bigger and better!

• Disco Inferno Street Party: Throughout the Royal Promenade on the Atlas Bridge, Rising Tide Bar and the mezzanine, guests will dance to the music of the 70’s in this Disco-themed street party.

Editor's NotebookWith so many exciting entertainment options and venues to choose from, Royal Caribbean has definitely made it easier for guests to plan accordingly, so as not to miss any of the onboard thrills, spills and chills. Show schedules are available pre-cruise at www.royalcaribbean.com, allowing guests the opportunity to customize their cruise experience by pre-booking all shows in advance of boarding.  You don't want to miss this opportunity to see and do what you want, when you want it. Pre-plan it all online.

CRUISE HOPPER HINT:  At the Royal Caribbean website, guests can view all show schedules by show name, day and time and make reservations as far out as three months prior to the sail date for shows at venues including the Amber Theater, Studio B ice-skating rink, Comedy Live and the AquaTheater. Utilizing the latest technology, all reservations booked online will be recorded to each guests’ Seapass card, which will be scanned upon arrival to the selected venue at show time and will serve as the show “ticket.” While guests are encouraged to take advantage of this new pre-booking ability, a traditional Box Office and a ticketing system via the in stateroom television also will be available for onboard reservations.

Central Park
Central Park is a unique public space combining nature with nautical.  A sea-going first.

Elegant, serene and lively, Central Park's piazza is the ship's town square, which evolves from a tranquil and peaceful "tropical "atmosphere during the day to a haven of tranquility beneath the stars, a gathering spot for dining, entertainment and street performances in the evening.  Definitely one of the most romantic spots for a stroll onboard.

Central Park features several al fresco dining options ( Park Cafe, Giovanni's Table, Chops Grill and 150 Central Park ) and more than 300 staterooms, which
rise six decks to overlook the Park.  Quiet reading corners, specimen gardens  with over 12,000 plants from over 100 different plant species, and other hidden surprises await guests among the winding paths.

There are plants that bloom at different times of the year to provide continuous color. And a full time horticulturist and three gardeners to take care of it all.

Bringing the outdoors in, Central Park offers guests a tranquil outdoor space open to the sky like never before.

Royal Promenade
The Royal Promenade Neighborhood - the most expansive promenade at sea - continues to be the heart of the ship. A signature feature on many Royal Caribbean ships, except on Allure, it's much bigger and wider.  The Royal Promenade has a mezzanine level that overlooks the space below and adds to the experience. This where the street parades take place.

Move it! Move It! the Dreamworks Animation Parade features more than 70 performers and 13 larger than life characters from Dreamwork's movie hits. You will find Shrek and Fiona, Puss in Boots and King Fu Panda and the Penguins in the parade.

On the Promenade you'll find the Champagne Bar, The Rising Tide Bar, The British style Pub "The Bow and Stern' , the On air club for live sports coverage, karaoke, trivias, and Nintendo Wii games. There is the second level Schooner Bar with great views of the Promenade below. Cafe Promenade is where you go for coffee and snacks at any time day or night.  You can also get Pizza at midnight if you wish at Sorrento's.  Move on along the starboard side of the Royal Promenade and you'll find Bolero's. If you love Salsa and Latin dancing this is the place.

At the far end you will find Focus, the photo galley and the Guest Services desk. The 40 members of Guest Services speak 14 languages and are available 24-7 to answer any of your questions and assist you.

The Cupcake Cupboard...
offers cupcake decorating lessons for the kids as well as adults. Try one of these delicious freshly baked cupcakes. They are out of this world!

The Promenade features Rising Tide, a levitating bar that ascends and descends over three decks, and enough shops and restaurants to entertain even the most traveled of travelers. By morning, enjoy a relaxed atmosphere over coffee and people watching. The ambiance becomes more energetic and vibrant in the afternoon with shopping, lunch or drinks in the pub. In the evening, the energy rises even more with parades, nightlife and entertainment for everyone. It's destination unto itself.

CRUISE HOPPER HINT: Passengers who aren't up to soaring along on a zip line nine decks high, can take a more leisurely ride,  and go much more slowly up and down three decks with a cocktail at the moving bar, Rising Tide. Try a frozen Mudslide. A great frozen drink concoction:  Absolut Vodka, Bailey's Irish Cream and Kahlua blended with Island Allure Ice Cream $7.00 )

Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center
You've taken a cruise to leave behind the daily grind of work and home.  What better place to to soothe your mind, body and soul, than this state-of-the-art setting designed for the healthy lifestyle, combines the most advanced spa and anti-aging therapies, the latest fitness equipment and healthy dining options.

Guests can enjoy the benefits of a relaxing massage or share the experience in one of our many couples massage suites. Restore your body in the Thermal Suite or rejuvenate with a pampering spa treatment.

If you're looking to energize your body, then head to the Fitness Center. Try the latest equipment or one of several classes, including: spinning, pilates, yoga and our favorite the Kinesis class: a full-body, no-impact workout.

Hungry after a good workout? Try the Vitality at Sea Café, where you'll find healthy snacks, juices and smoothes, plus nutritious entrees. The Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness neighborhood is perfect to strengthen your body, soothe your mind and renew your spirit.

Are you a runner?
If so, Allure of the Seas has an outdoor running track. One lap equals 0.43 miles and it's fun to read the encouraging messages all the way.

Pool and Sports ZoneMore options than you can imagine! A fun-filled zone for all ages, taking up an entire deck with multiple pools, rock-climbing walls, miniature golf, ping-pong, two FlowRiders® and a basketball court.

You can choose from four pools: the H2O Zone, where kids can enjoy a giant octopus with its water-spraying tentacles and a separate wading pool for infants and toddlers; the sports pool, dedicated for laps and waterspouts; or the new beach pool, with a sloped entry that simulates wading into the ocean. Or bask by the traditional pool, with more sun loungers than any other ship afloat.Mini-Golf, 2 FlowRiders®, and a full size basketball court.

Editors Note: The unique beach pool at sea has a sloped entry where you can wade into the water or relax with a beach chair under an umbrella, while gentle waters roll gently beneath. There is a whirlpool on each side of the Beach Pool. On a couple of nights the pool turn into an adult beach nightclub.


When you've worked up a thirst, you can stop by one of the four pool bars, or retreat to cool off in the Solarium. Surrounded by glass and standing two decks high, this is the perfect place for adults to relax.


The new Solarium Bistro offers sit-down dining areas with healthy entrees and at night it transforms into a unique specialty restaurant.


And don't miss the ultimate, spine-tingling rush - riding on the Zip Line! There's nothing like zooming over the Boardwalk, speeding along 82ft of free open space, a mere nine decks below.


The Sports pool and H20
On the port side, the Sports Pool is dedicated to aquatic activities and sports. Guests can participate in lap swimming sessions, water basketball, water polo tournaments and sign up for scuba diving lessons.

The H20 Zone on the starboard side is the children's water park. Here your kids can splash away in a fun-filled environment packed with squirting fountains, spray cannons, tipping buckets and even a waterfall.
 
Parents of little ones will find the Baby Splash Zone, which allows kids still in diapers.
 
The Teen Zone
This is the place your teenage kids can meet new friends, relax or be active. all parent-free! In the Living Room teens will find comfortable seating, Nintendo Wii games. At Fuel teens can dance the night away to DJs and the Back Deck is an open air venue for parties beneath the stars.

Allure Dunes
There's  a nine-hole golf course for the family and a small children's course with fun animal characters to entertain them.

Not one, but two FlowRiders®, surf simulators. Private and group lessons are available for a fee and you can have your picture taken as you "wipe out" or conquer the surf!  Zip Line at Sea. Travel along 82 feet of free open space., 9 decks above the Boardwalk. If you keep your eyes open during the trip, the views are amazing.

Youth Zone - Adventure Ocean Youth Entertainment ProgramsRoyal Caribbean has a great reputation and is renowned for it's facilities for kids and teens. Its next to impossible to cover all the youth activities in one review. But we'll give it a try.

On Allure of the Seas the Adventure Ocean® youth program, has even more space dedicated to youth activities then other ships in the fleet. 28,000 square feet! and 39 youth staff members. From vibrant teen areas to fun learning environments for our smaller guests, it's easy for your kids to make new friends in this neighborhood - and enjoy non-stop action day and night!

Here's where kids can be kids and parents can be worry-free. Activities are in dedicated spaces for age-appropriate groups with professional and caring staff to engage curious young minds. Aquanauts for 3 -5 years olds, Explorers for 6-8 years old and Voyagers for 9-11 year olds. The Youth Zone takes family vacationing to a whole new level. Kids ages 3 to 11 will love the Adventure Science Lab, the Imagination Studio and the new Adventure Ocean Theater. And teens will enjoy lots of hang out areas just for them. Guaranteed to be fun-filled, the Youth Zone is one of  the coolest youth spaces on sea or land! All of the Adventure Ocean activities are free, except for those under three. There is a printed daily schedule for each age group, with all the planned activities for the day listed.

About the Staff
According to Royal Caribbean, All Adventure Ocean team members hold a 4 year University degree in education, recreation or a related field.  The staff comes from all over the world. Each activity conducted by the team is designed to both entertain and enrich, providing kids with opportunities to learn new skills., interact with others of their age group and try new fun activities.

CRUISE HOPPER TiP: Children must be fully toilet-trained before they can join the Aquanauts. No pull-ups or diapers are allowed at Adventure Ocean activities. The Youth Zone can accommodate special needs children, but can't provide 1-on-1 care. The parents are welcome to stay with their children if they wish.

The Royal Babies and Tots is a drop off nursery with one dedicated nursery staff for every four children. The number is adjusted based on demand. The charge is $8 per hour and is open from 9 am until about midnight. Infants and toddlers ( 6 months or older ) can be left in the care of trained team members, participating in a range of fun playgroups created by Pisher-Price® and Crayola®

Adventure Ocean has six age groups:
Royal Babies and Tots - 6 months to 3 years
Aquanauts - ages 3 to 5
Explorers - ages 6 to 8
Voyagers - ages 9 to 11
Tweens - ages 11 to 12
Teens - ages 13 to 17

The Aquanauts have Fisher-Price toys in their activity/play room. The Explorers Nintendos and Wiis, and use the art room, science lab, and Adventure Ocean theater for their activities. The Voyagers also use all of the same facilities as the Explorers, but also use the Flow Riders and sports courts. The Adventure Ocean staff do not have any activities for those 3-11 at the pools, but all three age groups interact with the DreamWorks Animation Characters.

Tweens and teens have their own schedule ( printed daily ) and six dedicated staff. You will find them on deck 15.  There is a Living Room area, which is a lounge with TVs, games, computers, and a music/recording studio. They also have a teen night club, and outside back deck  near the table tennis, sports court, and Wipe Out cafe.

Entertainment PlaceIntroducing Entertainment Place, a neighborhood filled with more entertainment options than you can imagine. Here you'll find a mix of large, pulsating spaces and smaller, intimate venues that deliver a variety of entertainment every night.

Play your favorite game of chance at the elegant Casino Royale, which rivals any land-based casino in style and sophistication. Enjoy one-of-a-kind ice shows  at and a variety of themed events throughout the week at Studio B or take in a show at the Amber  Theater, featuring CHICAGO, on one of the most dramatic and spectacular stages we've seen.

If you feel like moving to the latest club music, there's Blaze, the hottest nightclub at sea, or get cozy at Jazz on 4. For late-night laughs, head to Comedy Live. ( Adult-rated ) Then there's Dazzles. From big band to disco, Dazzles offers countless fresh musical experiences - complete with dancing lessons and lively competitions. Now that's entertainment!

The 14 member Allure of the Seas Orchestra in Dazzles preformed, as we danced the night away to some of our favorite dance music.

Allure of the Seas’ Offers the Greatest Variety of Dining Options 

When it comes to Allure of the Seas one thing is for certain - there's no shortage of delicious dining options. Whether you're looking for a cozy dinner setting or an intimate elegant atmosphere, Allure of the Seas has just the thing. From authentic Italian seafood at the Giovanni’s Table to spectacular steak at Chops Grille, from My Time Dining\and My Family Time Dining your pallet will be pleasantly pleased, and you can enjoy these delicacies at your leisure.

One thing never changes. There are always passengers eating around the clock, keen on "getting their money's worth," as Weber put it.

They can repent by hitting Allure' state-of-the-art fitness center or jogging track. Morale-boosting signs spotted overhead along the track include this: "Tonight's dessert can be guilt free." The ship has 24 dining venues, 235 cooks and five executive sous chefs who are kept very busy 24/7, 7 days a week!
 
When it comes to dining, not everything is FREE...
 
Almost half of Allure’ eateries either have a la carte pricing or a cover charge, ranging from $4.95 a person for a burger-and-shake at Johnny Rockets to $35 for an elegant eight-course menu at 150 Central Park.

Onboard dining experiences include - sushi, tapas, an upscale steakhouse. There's also a doughnut shop, ice-cream parlor , even a cupcake boutique. Counting Calories? The Solarium Bistro serves lunch and dinner entrees with less than 500 calories. But on a cruise ship, whose counting!

Each of the specialty dining locations has its own galley, cooks and wait staff. There is no central kitchen commissary, so each venue works just like a stand-alone restaurant you'd find back home. The tradition of formal nights at sea still holds, but  we noticed some people get dressed up, some don't.  And those that due, tend to return to their stateroom right after dinner and change into something more casual for the remainder of the evening.  So, do you need to bring a dark suit, wear a tux or evening gown. You can, that's up to you.

More About Dining Options

Allure of the Seas is the pinnacle of an amazing culinary evolution, offering a plethora of choice, both in cuisine and timing, dine where and when you want and with whom. Allure of the Seas boasts an amazing 24 dining options throughout the ship that ensure there’s something great to eat day and night, 24/7. Stroll over to your favorite neighborhood and sample a different venue for every meal, from sushi to steaks, crepes, seafood and pasta. Guests can enjoy the ambience and the full menus of the main restaurant, but set their seating time with the new My Time Dining program. With no pre-assigned tables, guests can make daily reservations for the time that suits them, or just walk in when the whim hits. Additionally, My Family Time Dining is geared to parents and children ages 3-11 with an expedited 45-minute dining service during early seating only.

“Allure of the Seas offers the greatest variety of dining options in the cruise industry and compared to most hotel resorts in the world as well,” says, Frank Weber, vice president, Food & Beverage Operations, Royal Caribbean International. Weber has worked in the hospitality business for 25 years, the past seven with Royal Caribbean.

The opportunities offered by Allure of the Seas have allowed Weber and his team to create a multitude of restaurants throughout the ship. Out-of-the-box thinking and an impressive level of efficiency are second nature to Weber and his team, who understand how to offer guests fresh, delicious food of immense variety, while keeping the behind-the-scenes nuts and bolts of the operation running smoothly.

Editor's Notebook: The quality, atmosphere, and presentation at the specialty restuarants is far better then in the main dining room. These smaller, more intimate dining venues are well worth it, if you are looking for more than a typical cruise ship meal.

An impressive feat of organizational finesse, there are 20 separate galleys around the ship, plus onboard facilities ranging from a butcher shop to a fish prep room and a commissary kitchen – a Royal Caribbean first – which takes care of all the major prep work for all the galleys of the ship. Nearly 1,100 cooks, waiters, assistant waiters, bartenders, bar servers and cleaners in the food and beverage operations on board Allure of the Seas, running venues that range from the spectacular three-level Adagio dining room, which is divided into three independently-operating 650- to 1,100-seat restaurants, to the most intimate venue, the 14-seat Chef’s Table, an exclusive venue for private parties.

The 3056-seat Adagio Dining Room on the Allure of the Seas is a 3 story, 1920's Art Deco style venue. This huge main dining room is spread over three decks, with assigned seating for dinner served at 6:00 pm and 8:30 pm on decks 3 and 4 and My Time Dining on deck 5.

CRUISE HOPPER TiP: If you choose My Time Dining, you can dine anytime between 6 pm and 9:30 pm, and you should make advance reservations each evening to avoid waiting in line, akin to what you might do at a busy chain restaurant back home. "My Family Time Dining" is a great program.  Choose the 6:00 pm seating, sign up at Adventure Ocean, and your  kids will receive their meals within 40 minutes.  Adventure Ocean counselors will pick up the kids at the end of their meal and take them to enjoy kid-friendly activities while their parents finish dinner at their own pace.

“I could have never imagined I’d be involved in such an amazing and groundbreaking project as Allure of the Seas,” says Weber. “I am very proud we can offer guests so much choice and such great taste.”

For the most high-end dining experience, head to 150 Central Park, ( $35 per person up charge ) where Chef de Cuisine Maureen "Molly" Brandt, a talented and award-winning young female chef, is at the helm. The menu is different here. Chef Molly serves up a 6 course "tasting" menu of dishes she has chosen for you.   Everyone is served the same dishes. There are no items to choose from or substitutions allowed ( unless you have dietary issue ).

When we dined we started with a salad of chilled white and green asparagus, followed by smoked tomato soup, then fresh pea ravioli, seared tuna, wagyu strip loin and for desert: Rhubarb Gateau.  Some people enjoy exploring new ways to dine. Some don't.  So 150 Central Park may not be your cup of tea.  Nevertheless,  if you like to try it, it is great dining venue and a meal that offers  a unique experience.

Giovanni's Table an informal, family focused specialty dining venue is a must for lovers of hearty Italian fare.  Raye and I found this restaurant the best of all. Inside you will find an authentic Italian feel to the place, with Tuscan inspired artwork, while outside is ideal for those who prefer dine al fresco.  Try the Ossobuco Alla Piemontese. Veal ossobucco au jus, with tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese polenta and sautéed green beans. Delicious! Note: There is a $15 fee per person charge to dine at Giovanni's Table.


Casual venues are plentiful as well for sandwiches, wraps and salads, as well as coffee, donuts and ice-cream sundaes. For the health-conscious, not only has the entire Royal Caribbean fleet been transfat-free for three years, two outlets especially focus on healthy eating – the spa’s Vitality Café and the Solarium Bistro, where each dish is less than 500 calories. Across the board, menus offer more “super foods” such as tomatoes, broccoli and berries, more interesting vegetarian options (such as East Indian dishes), and sensible Tapas-style servings.


Here’s where to find all the palate-pleasing new choices aboard Allure of the Seas:


THE BOARDWALK

· Rita's Cantina: A casual indoor/outdoor Mexican style restaurant on the Boardwalk; taco's, burrito's, enchilada's, seafood, specialty dishes  of the southwest with flavors from Southern' California's famous taquerias and over-sized desserts plus a vast selection of ‘margaritas’


· Boardwalk Bar: The main bar on the Boardwalk; offering fruit, salads and sandwiches


· Boardwalk Donut Shop: A classic haunt for casual snacks and delicious treats


· Ice Cream Parlor: A variety of ice cream flavors and toppings take center stage against a backdrop of 1950s kitsch


· Johnny Rockets: ‘50’s-style Diner with server-entertainers


 · Boardwalk Dog House, which specializes in wieners, bratwursts and sausages.


The Boardwalk: Johnny Rockets, the Boardwalk Donut Shop, Rita's Cantina, Dog House, the Carousel and Smile, a novelty photograph shop where you can dress up and be photographed in outlandish costumes. What Fun!


CENTRAL PARK

· 150 Central Park: A trendy, upscale and intimate restaurant with a tasting menu with customized wine pairings
· Giovanni's Table: An Italian trattoria with both indoor and alfresco seating featuring Italian classics served family-style
· Park Café: An indoor/outdoor gourmet market featuring salads, sandwiches, soups, pastries and to-die-for fudge
· Vintages: A wine bar with pre-dinner tapas and cheeses along with a robust selection of fine wines
· Chops Grille: Royal Caribbean’s signature steakhouse with views of Central Park, and premium cuts or quality meats


ROYAL PROMENADE


· Sorrento's Pizzeria: Featuring New York style pizza, with both made-to-order pies and by the slice
· Café Promenade: Offering Seattle’s Best coffee, fruit shakes, pastries and sandwiches all day
· The Cupcake Cupboard: Featuring fresh-baked gourmet cupcakes as well as parties and design classes


POOL AND SPORTS ZONE

· Solarium Bistro: A health-conscious dining option for lunch and healthful fare and dancing under the stars in the evening
· The Wipe Out Café: A casual self-service buffet with pizza, hamburgers, sandwiches and fresh salads
· Izumi Asian Cuisine: Featuring mouthwatering flavors and a sushi bar with hot-rock cooking


Samba Grill: In the evening the Solarium Bistro is magically transformed into the Samba Grill, a Brazilian churrascaria, where waiters dressed as gaucho's bring a variety of grilled meats to your table until you tell them you've ate enough. Go hungry. There are 9 different servings, plus a salad bar and desert. ( $25.00 per person up charge ) It was so filling, Raye & I could not finish it all.


VITALITY AT SEA SPA AND FITNESS CENTER
· The Vitality Café: Offering healthy snacks, sandwiches, wraps, fruit and smoothies.


THE CLASSICS, Royal Caribbean hasn’t forgotten the classics of its fleet:
· Adagio Dining Room: The ship’s main restaurant features a three-tier venue with a 1920s Art Deco style; flexible My Time Dining and traditional assigned seatings.

· Windjammer Marketplace: A casual buffet fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner

· In-Stateroom Service: Order from the complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, or choose an original Johnny Rockets hamburger or Ghirardelli chocolate cookies from the new Dine In Delights menu

Internet, E-mail, And Smart Phones
Allure of the Seas offers Wi-Fi hot spot connections throughout the ship, dedicated internet stations and limited connections for your smart phone.  The ship even lets you access the internet from your stateroom. Wireless keyboards interact with the in-stateroom tv.  Connection speed onboard is not as fast as the connection you have at home.  Due to the nature of satellite communications at sea, you will notice a difference. The system does not support high bandwidth applications such as Skype, VOIP, Remote Access and most VPN connections. Devices such as Iphones, Itouch, IPOD and Blackberry devices are not currently supported. Some smart phone are, depending upon your carrier. Check with your carrier if they have connectivity while onboard a cruise ship. We have AT&T and they do. So, we had no trouble using our HTC smart phone for voice and data connections. You will pay a premium per minute for this service, but it still is much cheaper then using the ships phone in your stateroom. Internet rates are .65 cents a minute with some packages that reduce the cost to as little as $30 cents a minute if you buy a bulk amount of minutes.  If you buy a package and don't use all the minutes, your will not a refund for the unused portion.

Ports of CallSome ports of call are more attractive then others. So, when evaluating them, try a balanced and objective approach; read at least a dozen or more of both the positive and negative comments online, then decide if the port of call meets your expectations.
 
Labadee, Haiti

This private port of call, for Royal Caribbean guests only,  offers a wide variety of beach activities like jet skiing, a zip line, parasailing, snorkeling and even a roller coaster! There is also an Haitian Cultural Tour.  All of which are "extra" costs. The beach is long and wide, but parts of it are sandy, other parts rocky, so be sure to bring along a pair of rubber swim shoes. Cruise Hopper tip: You will find the best beach on Labadee, at Columbus Cove.

Lunch is served at three separate areas of the beach. hamburgers, hot dogs, salads and side dishes. Behind the bar and outdoor dining areas you will find the Artisan Village. There is where local Haitians sell their wares. Mostly t-shirts, wood carvings, art work, hand made jewelry, straw hats and the like.  Be prepared, the vendors are aggressive and some are very pushy. So, if that sort of behavior turn you off, don't worry, its easy to avoid it. 
On the other hand, if your up for it, you can haggle with the locals and get yourself some pretty good deals. Raye likes to buy local jewelry ( never pays the asking price ) and I like to view the art, so we set out to find it. By the way, these vendors only except cash.  As with any "locals" Island shopping experience, buyer beware. Once you've bought it, you cannot return it. All sales final.

Falmouth, Jamaica
 
This was Allure of the Seas' first port call at Falmouth, Jamaica.

Online, Royal Caribbean describes the port this way....
"Step off the ship and step back in time. It may not appear so at first glance, but quaint Falmouth was an economic powerhouse and center for dramatic social change during the English Colonial Period. Founded as Martha Brae Point in 1769 by local English planter Thomas Reid, Falmouth became the shipment hub for sugar plantations covering the hills of Jamaica’s North Coast. From the wharfs of Falmouth, sugar, molasses, rum and coffee were sent to England, while ships making their way from across the Atlantic dropped anchor in the bustling port town to deliver other necessities of 18th century life.  In today's Falmouth, visitors still enjoy 19th-century Georgian architecture as well as river bamboo raft rides, arts & crafts shopping, and flavorful local fare".

But all is not what meets the eye.

The Historic Port of Falmouth is a work-in-progress. The port and infrastructure are still under construction. It's not finished. Not even close.

Royal Caribbean in cooperation with the Jamaica National Heritage Trust is in the process of creating this new destination, Historic Falmouth Jamaica, with thematic design and architecture reflecting the Georgian architectural era of Falmouth at its peak as described above.

Construction of the shops in the port are not complete and were not open during our visit. In the interim, Royal Caribbean has done a good job of improvising. Local craft vendors have set up tables and displays outside the unfinished buildings.  Shuttles , taxis and shore excursion buses are available to take passengers to where ever they wish to go. The shops offer a variety of hand-made arts and crafts, jewelry and paintings. The fabrics and clothing are colorful and there is no shortage of trinkets and souvenirs.

During this pre-opening phase we did enjoy the local street market, stilt walkers, wood carvers, cultural dancers, Reggae, Calypso and Caribbean music preformed by local bands. We were entertained by a military-style youth marching band when the ship arrived. And on departure we had a waving crowd of locals send us off.

CRUISE HOPPER TiP: If you have called on Jamaican ports such as Ocho Rios or Montego Bay, you know what to expect. Many of the local vendors are to put it gently, very aggressive. They sometimes get right in your face.  However, many of the vendors will bargain with customers. A part of the shopping experience, some enjoy.  Inside the gated-secured-port complex, it was obvious that vendors were instructed not to be pushy, rude or aggressive. They were not. However, step out of the complex and walk directly across the street and you enter a local street market.  Such rules do not apply. So, be warned.

Cozumel, Mexico

The Conquistadors first saw Mexico from the shores of Cozumel while searching for gold. Today, visitors to the island continue to seek out gold and silver jewelry in the shops of San Miguel while having a great time in its many local bars and restaurants. Plus, the waters around Cozumel's sheltered coral reefs make this one of the best snorkeling areas in the world.
CRUISE HOPPER TiP : Don't miss the opportunity to explore the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Tulúm, majestically perched above the turquoise Caribbean. The site was occupied as far back as 600 A.D. However, it was most densely populated around 1200 A.D. You will be struck by the pyramid-shaped El Castillo, which dominates the city from atop a forty-foot cliff. The nearby Temple of the Descending God provides equally excellent insight into the architecture of the Mayan people, who gained considerable achievements in the arts and sciences, only to decline and vanish for no apparent reason.

Allure of the Seas docks several miles from downtown. So,  if you want to visit Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, Carlos and Charles, or have a bite to eat at Las Paleras, its a $7.00 per vehicle cab ride to downtown.

Final Thoughts
Allure of the Seas is only one of two ships in the world where you can truly match your shipboard interests to your budget. There really is a cruise ship perfectly suited for you and your family. Never before has there been such an extensive offering of cabins, activities, amenities, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and even special savings.

Depending upon your interests, your athletic ability, or your passion — and the size of your budget— just about everything you could dream of doing while at sea, can come true.  Are you an active try-anything type personality. Then, this ship is for you! First, there is the zip line, then not one, but two flow-riders, two rock-climbing walls, 4 swimming pools , the ice rink, and if you just want to slow down for a few minutes, try the carousel.

You can take the family (all the kids- ranging in age from infants to teens), enroll them in planned and supervised all-day kid-friendly activities, while cruising the sunny Caribbean. When they return home, your kids will be raving about it to their friends.

Are you looking for nonstop action, never-ending entertainment, Broadway-style shows ( CHICAGO ), a high diving Aqua show, bountiful breakfast and lunch buffets, a different specialty restaurant every night and a sports deck with not one, but two, FlowRiders, a full size basketball court, 9 hole mini-golf course, ping pong, even a zip line? Look no further, it's all there.

CRUISE HOPPER TIP: Families are the focus here.  The shipboard experience aboard Allure of the Seas will keep everyone in your family  entertained, fed, active and we think, very happy. The number one thing to do for your Allure of the Seas vacation is to pre-plan everything. That way you can maximize your time and not miss a moment, nor be disappointed. Family cruisers have so many options when it comes to Allure of the Seas , planning up front is a must.  Visit http://www.royalcaribbean.com/ to set up your dining options, onboard sport activities, shore excursions and spa treatments.

If yes, then you should check out Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's Allure of the Seas. For families, Disney, Carnival Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line all have good programs, but none completes the "package" as well as Royal Caribbean. Disney Cruise Line is also a good competitive choice, but it does not have a casino and your older kids may not be as interested in “everything Disney” as the "Mickey Mouse Club" kids. The New Disney Dream does have the Aquaduck water ride, three main dining rooms - Enchanted Garden, Royal and Animators Palate - offering rotating dining. Your wait staff accompany you as you dine in each of the restuarants. There are two-adults only specialty restuarants: Italian themed Palo and French-inspired Remy ( $85.00 per person up charge ). But in the end, Allure and it' sister ship Oasis of the Seas has more. More Variety. More Dining. More Fun. More for adults, but plenty of reasons to bring the kids!

But what if your traveling without kids? Does Allure of the Seas offer a romantic, ultra-luxurious and intimate experience at sea? Yes it does.

And the two of you will hardly notice others. Do you want to dine at restaurants that rival some of the best dining establishments ashore. There's Giovanni's Table, Chops Grill, 150 Central Park, Samba Grill, or Izumi for Asian cuisine. How about a window table looking out on Central Park, watching gentle sea breeze flutter the trees. You'd swear you weren't on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. Candle-light dinner doesn't get any more romantic then on your private balcony, gazing at the moon, while sipping a good glass of wine or champagne. Stop by Vintages wine bar and sample some of the best producing wines in the world. Raye and I did it all.

Adult entertainment. Allure has that too! Entertainment Place they call it.

The Amber Theatre is beautiful. It seats 1,380 guests and is equipped with theatrical features that make you feel like your seeing the show on Broadway. You should definitely make reservations early for Broadway's longest running show, CHICAGO: The Musical and a must see, what could aptly be described as mesmerizing: Blue Planet. The amazing group of singers, dancers and actors are as artistically talented as can be and put on two great shows.

Blue Planet was our favorite. This is a spectacle of music, dance and aerial acrobatics on an amazing and visually exciting set that showcases the wonders of the world, from giant mountains to underwater scenes and a "living" tree that will challenge your senses. The set moves to extend out toward the audience and aerial artists appear and reappear as if by magic. It's a challenge to full describe the sensory experience in writing, but this show is in a word: mesmerizing. Don't miss it.

There is so much diversity of entertainment options. Whether you like to relax to smooth jazz, dance the night away or take in some side-splitting ( adult rated ) comedy, this ship is the place for you. We spend two nights at Jazz on 4, took in the comedy of Dan Wilson and AJ Jamal ( note this show contains adult language, verbal sexual conversation and is not suitable for anyone under 18 ) and danced to a 14 piece orchestra at Dazzles.

There's piano melodies with Glenn Hogue high up at the Viking Crown Lounge, A summer breeze concert out at the Aqua Theatre, pub entertainment with Jimmy Blakemore at the Bow & Stern, a 50's and 60's Rock n' Roll Party, and moonlight serenades with the Fresh Sound Duo as you stroll Central Park.

You can sit out on the deck and view the movie: Grease or see the headliner show staring Tribute, A salute to the Temptations, in the Amber Theatre. Oh. Did I mention this is just what was happening on Day 4 of our cruise. Cruise Compass, the daily planner ( everyone gets one ) is 6 pages long, chock-a-block full of Adult things to do.

The best part of it all, you can get lost in your own corner of this sea-going world and have the most romantic time of your life.

Allure of the Seas is an enlightening, life-changing, out-of-the-ordinary shipboard entertainment experience — unlike any other.

Even super luxury cruises on say, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea Cruises or Seabourn can't match the options and nonstop, high-energy activities and entertainment. They cannot even offer the sheer number of cabin choices, including a two story loft, found on Allure of the Seas.

What Did it Cost?
Here's a breakdown of what our cruise costs. Inside, and ocean view staterooms will cost less, while Jr. Suites and Suites will cost more. Prices vary by sailing date, category and location on ship. Bring the kids and you'll pay a reduced rate for 3rd or 4th passengers sharing the stateroom with you.

CATEGORY D7 - Balcony Stateroom

Cruise Fare @$1265 per person$2530.00
Taxes/Fees @91.00 per person$  182.00
Insurance @89.00 per person$  178.00
Specialty Dining @100 per person$  200.00
SPA $ 275.00
Pictures $140.00
Drinks $60.00
Gifts $80.00
Shore Excursions $220.00
Sub Total $3865.00
Airfare $ 800.00
1 Night Hotel Stay $149.00
Total $4814.00  $688 a day!
Amounts rounded off to nearest dollar

The bottom line: Cruising on Allure is not cheap. But the experience is unique. Only you can decide if it's worth it. A cruise can be a really good travel deal if you are careful about the extras; expensive if your not. 

May not be for you. May be the perfect vacation for others.

If, however, you are looking for a more "social" experience with your fellow cruisers, something more upscale, more traditional, more stately or an ultra-luxury experience and are willing to pay for it, ( thousands more per week than Royal Caribbean ) then some other cruise lines are worthy of consideration.  On the other hand, if the adventure of sailing on the world's largest cruise ship, a destination unto itself, intrigues you, then go for it. You will not be disappointed.

Allure of the Seas provides a high energy, warm, friendly and spirited social environment for people of all ages, but especially for families who want it all. Fun for the kids and adults too!

Decide what you want, what you can afford and then be sure to talk with a trusted and reputable travel agency with a veteran cruise specialist on their staff.

Article Footnote
It takes a lot to impress Raye & I when it comes to a cruise ship. Having sailed to the far corners of the world, it is often hard to find a ship that meets not just some, but most if not all, your needs. We were so impressed with and thoroughly enjoyed Allure of the Seas, that on the last day of the sailing we called the kids. Actually, they're all grown up with 5 grand children ranging in age from 4 to 20.  We may of had one too many "mudslides", but we recall invited them all, including their parents onboard for a family cruise next February.  Nearly a dozen of us!
Oh my, talk about putting your money where your mouth is.....

© 2011 Cruise Direct Online Online, Cruise Traveler Magazine. A Travel Direct Company ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Photo Credits: All photo's ®2011 Royal Caribbean International or Raye & Marty Trencher
Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon and all related characters and properties TM & © 2010 DreamWorks Animation L.L.C

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