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Faux-Live Blog Allure of the Seas - Eastern Caribbean 14-21 October

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Yet another post cruise live blog.  Similar to @BermudaDice, I didn't want to attempt to keep an actual live blog with only my phone.  And since my photo skills (only carry an IPhone) pale in comparison to @twangster @JLMoran, @Rimmit, and others, I don't have any pictures to share, but I'll do my best.   Our itinerary  was:

Sunday:  Excitement day

Monday/Tuesday:  At Sea

Wednesday:  St Maarten (ATV Excursion via the cruise planner - more on that later)

Thursday: San Juan (only in port from 7:00-1:30)

Friday:  Labadee

Saturday:  At Sea

Sunday:  Sad Day

This was a 25th anniversary celebration so we had three specialty dinners with a deluxe drink package (me) and refreshment package (wife).  We stayed in cabin 10590, starboard side, slightly forward of mid ship.  It was an ocean-view balcony at the beginning of a "hump". 

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Thursday (Cruise Day Minus 3 Days):  We were scheduled to fly from BWI to MCO at 8:50PM.  My wife worked a full day and I worked in the morning and did some last minute errands in the afternoon . We had a car scheduled to take us to BWI at 5:30, so my wife had an hour after school before leaving.  That was the day that Hurricane Michael was going through the Carolinas so we were monitoring the weather pretty closely, debating on trying to change to a Friday AM flight.  But we just kept our original plans.  Luckily, our plane arrived at BWI a few minutes early so I was hopeful.  I happened to glance out the window in time to see our luggage going into the plane so that was a good sign.  Southwest did a great job of getting everyone on board and the doors were closed by 8:40 and we were wheels up before 9:00.  I would have lost money that we would get out of the airport that night, much less on time.  It was bumpy for about 35 minutes but then was smooth after that.

We landed in Orlando a little early (around 11:00 PM) and only had to wait about 20 minutes for the luggage to start coming out.  Ours were among the first 10 bags to come off the carrousel so we the travel luck was still good.  We had booked a night at the Hyatt Regency in the airport so we were in our room by 11:30 PM.  If you're flying into Orlando on a late flight and need a hotel for the night, this is a great option.  It's not the cheapest ($250) but the convenience is great, the hotel is very nice, and the sound proofing is very good.   We've had a outside facing room before and you can hear some muffled plane activity but it doesn't wake you up.  This time we were overlooking the security checkpoint inside the airport.  

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10 minutes ago, mbk999 said:

And since my photo skills (only carry an IPhone) pale in comparison to @twangster @JLMoran, @Rimmit, and others, I don't have any pictures to share, but I'll do my best.

Thanks for the compliment! ☺️ But for the record, I also only carry an iPhone (a now 3-year old 6s Plus), albeit one with a couple of add-on lenses I use where it seems to make sense. As the saying goes, “The best camera is the one you have with you.”

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Friday:  (Cruise Day Minus Two Days):  since this was our 25th anniversary, we did a partial recreation of our honeymoon where we did the Big Red Boat on Premier Cruise Lines, with a cruise and some time at Disney.  Friday we had booked tickets for their Halloween party at the Magic Kingdom so we stayed one night at the Contemporary Resort as that was where we stayed for our Honeymoon.  I managed to keep the hotel a secret from my wife until we had driven past all the other resorts.  We (particularly my wife) are big Disney Park fans but we've never done the Halloween party before and it was a lot of fun.  We continued to luck out with great weather (low humidity) and we were at the park from 4:00 to Midnight.  We just walked back to the room so that was really convenient.  

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Saturday (Cruise Day Minus One Day):  one of the benefits of flying in a couple of days before the cruise is we weren't rushed at all.  We spent the morning wandering around the resort and then set off for the drive to Fort Lauderdale.   It was a pretty easy drive down the Florida Turnpike.  It took a little over 3 hours and about $18 in tolls.  We had debated getting there early enough to see the Harmony set sail but the jetty at the State Park was closed so we nixed that idea.  We stayed at the Homewood Suites on Griffin Road, just south of the airport and right off I-95.   I booked this using points as this was about 30K vs 50-60K for the Embassy Suites.   Book the Embassy Suites.   The Homewood Suites was okay.  It wasn't bad by any stretch but it was the "least good" of any Homewood I've stayed at before.  The breakfast buffet wasn't very good either.   This must be a pattern with the hotels around the airport as we had a similar experience last April with the Hampton Inn south of the airport.  It wasn't bad but I would rank it at the bottom of all the Hampton Inns I've stayed at.

Another negative for the Homewood Suites is the proximity to restaurants.  There were a couple of ones with good Yelp reviews, but we pulled up to one Cuban place in a strip mall and, while open, there was no one in the dining room and a few people just hanging out in the parking lot.  We left there and went to an Irish place.  Their parking lot was full and their overflow lot was "half a block away with a shuttle".   We decided not to leave our car in a place that required a shuttle for a block walk.     We made our way over to the area by the Embassy Suites.  By this time it was getting late for us for dinner so we ended up at Duffy's Sports Bar.  Not high on my list but at least it was safe and the food was edible.  Lesson learned on that one.  

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Sunday Fun Day:  We woke up early, dropped the rental car off by 09:30 and made our way to the port by about 10:00, figured we'd be waiting at least an hour.  We had Expedited Embarkation but at that hour it really wasn't needed.   Curb to waiting area (with pictures) was about 10 minutes.  Then we just waited, and waited, and waited.   Apparently there was a customs issue on the previous voyage so it was taking a long time to clear the ship.  We've all heard about not booking a flight before noon.   Depending on when you left the ship, you would have had a problem that Sunday.

They finally started boarding a little before 1200 and that's where the disorganization occurred.  There was poor delineation with Diamond, Diamond Plus, Emerald, etc.  So when they started with Diamond Plus "this row only", well that row actually extended into Platinum (our level) so people started boarding from that section.  Then others starting filling in the spaces vacated by those people, and so on.   People couldn't adapt to "this row only"  They'd hear Emerald or Platinum and come from the other side of the terminal as they called Emerald.   Not chaos, but annoying....  but we made it on-board and we were off to the races.  

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Sunday Continued:

Once we got on board, we followed message board advice and went right to the dining room to make reservations.   We had a Bogo and one other voucher from AAA.   They gave us Samba Grill the first night and Giovanni's the first second night.  We switched out Samba for Chops, booked 150 Central Park for Wednesday.  We had My Time Dining so we made 6:00PM reservations for the other days.   With that done, on to lunch!   We decided to try the Solarium Bistro and we liked that alot.  There wasn't as large of a selection as Windjammer but the food was good and we got ahead of the crowd.     We left the Solarium and went to the pool deck for our first drink.   As soon as we sat down, the announcement was made that the rooms were ready.   When I mentioned the hump balcony, I forgot to add that the bed was by the bathroom and the couch by the balcony.  It didn't matter to us but I know others prefer the reverse.  Continuing our good travel luck, our bags were actually outside the room, so we were able to unpack, get changed, and back up to the pool deck by 2:00.  

After the muster drill  (leaving that was the only time the ship felt claustrophobic), we watched sail away from the balcony and got ready for dinner.   One word about Chops... awful.  the service was bad, the entrees weren't good, it was just bad.   The host looked like we were bothering him.  The server was inattentive and absent for 15-20 min at a stretch.  THe apps were okay but my wife's chicken was dry and tough, my NY strip was cooked perfectly but was more like sirloin.  We should have complained but we were an hour in and who to complain to?  The surly host or the ghost waiter?  As this was our second lackluster Chops experience, we decided lesson learned on Chops and hoped for better at Giovannis.

We had reservations for Oceanaria but that was cancelled for the evening due to conditions so we checked out some of the music venues in the Promenade.  I applaud Royal for the broadway productions but we skipped Mamma Mia.  147 min based on Abba music is too much for us.  Grease, We WIll Rock YOu, Chicago, we're in.

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Monday (Sea Day):

Breakfast was at the Bistro (a theme for the week) and we hit the pool deck.  We were on the Starboard forward pool and go some decent seats on the third row.  The pool could get crowded but you could always get a spot to cool off.  Simon and Tamra at the Starboard side pool bar were great.   We tried lunch at the Wipeout Cafe but that's more of a place to grab a burger or hot dog.

We left the pool deck a little early to catch the 5:00 Ice Games which was great.   And we were at Giovanni's by our 6:00 reservation.  We really enjoyed Giovannis, the service was great and the food was really good (imo).  It might not be the absolute best Italian food (that was my Grandmother's kitchen) but we thought it was really good.  We liked it enough to cancel 150 and book Giovannis again.  i know some are shaking their heads at that move but my wife isn't a big foodie and she was happy with Giovanni's so it worked out. 

We were able to catch Oceanaria that night and we really enjoyed it.  It's our first time on an Oasis Class ship and we were blown away.  I think both Oceanaria and Ice Games are drop what you're doing and go see them events.

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Tuesday (Sea Day):

This was basically a repeat of Monday.  Bistro for Breakfast and lunch.  Pool time and multiple trips to Simon and Tamra.  Lots of sun and Kindle time.   

As I hadn't seen our ATV excursion on our Personal Calendar (tv), I went down to the shore excursion desk to double check and the conversation went something like:  Me: "I'm here to check on our ATV excursion tomorrow" Them:  "We don't have an ATV excursion in St Maarten"  Me:  "Yeah yah do, i've got a paper receipt to prove it"  THem:  "Are you sure it's not in Puerto Rico?"   Long story but after 15-20 minutes and me showing them the hard copy receipt, the tour operator had canceled the excursion, but I never got any notification from Royal.  I had to go to guest services and they had to call the main office to verify that I had been refunded the $276.  (confirmed via credit card statement upon return).  We were looking forward to it so it was disappointing but it happens.

We had dinner at the main dining room this evening.  The dining room is the one part of the ship I did not care for.  I prefer the grand, multi-story MDRs.  I understand why the Allure is the way it is but I really didn't care for it.  And we were put in a side room with about 10 tables.   The food was okay, my wife just got the chicken and I got the Tiger Shrimp.   Both were okay but the chicken was way better than Chops.  Tres Leches cake and Creme Brulee for dessert.  Our assistant waiter was a bit of a ghost but Mario the waiter was very good.  As it was our anniversary cruise, he got us a cake and they did the singing, which was nice.

We made spent time in the Promenade and did the Love and Marriage game.  Yes it's corny and a bit kitschy, but it was funny and we enjoyed it.

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Wednesday (St Maarten):

Bistro for breakfast and then we had an island tour at 8:45 .  It had been a few years since we'd been so we opted to see the island again and while some of the views were great, it was sad to see the destruction from last year.   Some buildings are just walls and floors, power line towers are just laying on the mountain, boats are still submerged in the harbor.  We stopped somewhere and got some pastries and bread which was very good.   We got back to the ship around 1230 so we decided to just get back on the ship and enjoy it.   The overall goal for this cruise was to relax as much as possible and it's been a stressful year.  Sitting by the pool with Simon/Tamra drinks worked for me. 

No pier runners as we sailed away....

This was our second Giovanni's night and it was better than the first.  Our waiter Asu was great.  My wife wanted what I previously had (gnocchi with the Bolganese sauce) but he had other ideas.  "No no, i'll bring you that and the pasta of the day to share.  Madam, you like shrimp?  I'll bring you that.  Sir, you get the Filet" . both were very good.  That was a great meal, both with food and service.

We caught How to Train your Dragon after dinner which was good but not as good as Ice Games.  This was our make-up reservation for Oceanaria as well and we liked it just as much the second time.

Another good night.

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Thursday:  San Juan

Guess where we had breakfast...   We had never been to San Juan before so our plan was to get off the ship around 7:30-8:00 and just walk around old San Juan.  We really enjoyed just wandering through the old city, the forts, and the gate.  We are looking forward to going back.    We walked around for a few hours and got back on the ship a little after noon (1:30 all aboard).  We were delayed leaving as there were still 4 people not on board as of 1:30.   Two came back around 1:40 but we were still missing two.  Finally at 1:50 they appeared on the docks.  Note:  if you're going to be a pier runner (intentionally or unintentionally) you at least need to be able to walk fast.  The two stragglers could not move fast at all.  We didn't leave until around 2:30.  Whether that was the reason or not, we were doing about 21.5 knots that whole night to Labadee.

Dinner at the MDR with 6:00 reservations.  The line for no reservations was out into the elevator lobby so they were able to find an empty table for us up on Deck 5 which is for traditional dining.  My wife got the pork chop and it was good.  I got the Ahi Tuna and it was delicious.  Not good by ship standard but just outright good.   Big thick piece of Tuna, cooked correctly, piping hot.   

Earl Turner was the headliner and he was fantastic.  I must say the entertainment was great all week.

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Friday:  Labadee 

We were late getting to port and we were delayed getting off the ship (1015-1030).  Unusually for us, we had no plans or really no idea where to go (no cabana).   We walked over to the beach lounger section on Adrenaline Beach.  We didn't get a lounger but got two chairs under a palm tree and it was great.   Despite the 6K passengers, it wasn't overrun on the island (imo).  Except maybe for lunch.  Decent buffet but one time through took about 20 minutes.  

Bar service was a bit lacking.  I know it's a pain to truck over the supplies but they ran out of margarita mix by 1:30 (at the main bar over by Nelle's Beach).  We stayed until 4ish when we were chased off by a storm.  

Tonight was lobster night and we cancelled our MTD reservation and went to the Windjammer.  Neither of us are that crazy about lobster and it was going to be crazier in the MDR than the night before.  Plus it was Indian night up at the WIndjammer.  Dinner at the Windjammer, who knew?  I didn't know what to expect and we really liked it.  I thought the food was good.

Blue Planet was the main show.   The performers were good but the show was just okay.  I hated the song arrangements.  U2's Pride is a stadium anthem, it doesn't work as a Broadway stage song.

We went to the Quest and it was a good time.  

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Saturday:  Last Sea Day was pretty much a repeat of the other sea days.  Beach chair, pool, drinks.  we had thought about going to the Aqua show, going to bingo, but we were content watching the ocean go by.    Packed up in the afternoon, WIndjammer for dinner, bought some pictures, and just chilled.

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Sunday:  Disembarkation was pretty easy.  I think the ship docked around 04:30 and self-assist could start disembarking around 5:30-5:45.  Our flight wasn't until 1:35PM so we just set out our luggage.  Breakfasts ran from about 05:30 to 8:00.  We had one final go around at the Solarium Bistro and spent an hour or so our on deck.  We waited outside the Starbucks until our # was called.  We were #48 and were called at 8:30.  We disembarked through the theater on Deck 5.  Collected our bags and were out the door a little before 9:00.   No customs forms, the CBP agent just checked our passports.   

Note:  we flew out of FLL Terminal C.   they have limited food options that got quickly overwhelmed at 11:00.   There's a sit down Chillis and a SHula Burger.  We bypassed Chillis as the line was 20 deep and it didn't look like there was a lot of wait staff.   We tried Shula Burger until we heard a lady say she had been waiting 45 minutes to get her order.   We were left with pre-made sandwiches.   Eat a big breakfast on-board 

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Final thoughts:

Pros:

  • Loved the Allure, great ship   we are confirmed big ship fans.
  • The Entertainment in general was fantastic
  • Food was decent, some better than others but overall I'd give it a B
  • Exception was Chops, that gets an F  and it will be a long time before venturing into another Chops
  • In general the staff was very friendly and pleasant.  Guest Services wasn't the friendliest but they are usually dealing with problems or complaints so as long as they aren't rude, they get a pass from us.
  • Check-In / Disembarkation was simple

Cons:

  • Unorganized Embarkation but that might just be because of the previous delayed disembarkation
  • Did not care for the MDR aesthetics, we prefer the Grand multi-level MDRs
  • Schooner Bar was a let down.  The Vision-Class schooner Bars are way better.  Plus the drinks were terrible.  I loved the Enchantment Schooner Sidecar, the one on the Allure was totally different.  I tried another drink and it was bad too.  I thought it might have been me.  Maybe i've grown soft in my drinking or something.  Then I saw a group at trivia who clearly enjoyed their alcohol, and one or two of their drinks were undrinkable as well
  • The walkways can be narrow around the pool deck.  If there's a scooter or stroller coming, it's a one-way lane.  The outside deck on deck 5 is also narrow.  The jogging track takes up most of the deck.

The following is for information purposes as it comes up often in the boards, it's not meant as an editorial:

  • Dress Code -    there really wasn't a dress code, pretty much anything went.  T-shirts and shorts were prevalent, even in Chops and Giovanni's.  However, there was enough mix on Formal night where either crowd wouldn't be out of place.  There were enough Tuxes, Suits, Ballgowns where if you wanted to dress up, there were others equally as dressy.  I also saw enough T-shirts and shorts where that wasn't out of place.   I just don't want to be the one guy in shorts when everyone else is in a Tux or vice versa and that would not have been an issue.  
  • Smoke:  it is noticeable around the pool bar on the port side where there are several tables with ash trays.  We had started out on the starboard side and hadn't realized there was smoking until we went to the other side to hunt for shade.   The smoking impact on the Casino was interesting.  There was a smoking and a non-smoking section and I did not find the Non-Smoking section to be that bad.   It was too much for my wife but she is hyper-sensitive to smoke but even she said it wasn't as bad as other ships.  The smoke did drift up the Starboard aft stairwell.  You could tell by Deck 6 (casino on deck 4) and one night you could start to get a whiff around Deck 8.   The smoke smell definitely encroached into that elevator bank so we just made sure not to use that one.    Still prevalent but much less than on the Enchantment.

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