Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)
Allure of the Seas
Ship: 409 out of 500
Accommodation: 148 out of 200
Food: 234 out of 400
Service: 291 out of 400
Entertainment: 88 out of 100
Cruise: 296 out of 400
Overall Score: 1466 out of 2000
Allure of the Seas Statistics
Size: Large Resort Ship
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean International
Former Names: none
IMO Number: 9383948
Builder: Aker Yards (Finland)
Original Cost: $1.5 billion
Entered Service: Dec 2010
Length (ft/m): 1,181.1/360.0
Beam (ft/m): 216.5 /66.0
Draft (ft/m): 30.0/9.1
Propulsion/Propellers: diesel-electric (97,200kW)/3 pods (2 azimuthing, 1 fixed)
Passenger Decks: 16
Total Crew: 2,164
Passengers (lower beds): 5,408
Passenger Space Ratio (lower beds): 41.6
Passenger/Crew Ratio (lower beds): 2.4
Cabins (total): 2,704
Size Range (sq ft/m): 150.6-1,523.1/14.0-141.5
Cabins (for one person): 0
Cabins (with private balcony): 1,956
Cabins (wheelchair accessible): 46
Wheelchair accessibility: Good
Cabin Current: 110 volts
Casino (gaming tables): Yes
Slot Machines: Yes
Swimming Pools: 3
Hot Tubs (on deck): 10
Self-Service Launderette: No
Dedicated Cinema/Seats: No
Onboard currency: US$
This is the world’s largest, family-friendly, multi-choice ship
Overview. This stunning ship provides a fine cruise experience and wide range of choices for youthful adults and families with children. It’s packed with innovative design elements such as the dramatic Central Park, taking urban greenery to sea. The ship is a benchmark for self-contained resorts with propellers.
The Ship. Allure of the Seas qualifies as the world’s largest cruise ship by less than 2ins (5cm) - that’s how much longer it is than its twin sister, Oasis of the Seas, the world’s first cruise ship measuring over 200,000 tons, which debuted in 2009. In almost every other way, however, the ships are pretty much identical.
Built as a ‘Moveable Resort Vacation’ for families with children, it is a stunning ship and a massive credit to Royal Caribbean International’s (RCI’s) design team. A lot of outdoor and indoor/outdoor space is devoted to aqua-bathing and sports, but there’s little space for sunbathing. There are several swimming pools, three of which - ‘main,’ ‘beach,’ and ‘sports’ - are positioned high on Deck 15 (Pool and Sports Zone) of the 16 passenger decks, as is an H2O Zone. Two large hot tubs extend over the ship’s side (the water for the swimming pools alone weighs 2,300 tons).
The design is a continuum of the Freedom- and Voyager-class ships. It incorporates more of the facilities that young families seek for action-packed cruise vacations. There are 37 bars and over 20 places to eat or snack. And the latest technology means that Allure and Oasis are 30 percent more energy-efficient than even the Freedom-class ships.
Public spaces are arranged as seven ‘neighborhoods’: Central Park, the Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa/Fitness Center, Entertainment Place, and Youth Zone. The most popular are the Boardwalk and Central Park, both open to the air, and the indoor Royal Promenade.
The Boardwalk. An echo of Coney Island, the Boardwalk - open to the skies - contains shops (naturally) and an art gallery. Art is displayed in Central Park’s Art Actually, where artists who contributed to the ship’s multi-million dollar collection can sell items to you.
Eateries include a Boardwalk Donut Shop; Johnny Rockets, a burger/milk shake diner; and a covered Seafood Shack for fish and seafood. If you are in a Central Park cabin, you’ll need to take the elevator to get to the closest pool - it’s like going to the top of a building for a dip. Let’s hope the pool volleyball game doesn’t end up with the ball being tossed into the park - or onto someone’s balcony while they’re having coffee.
Central Park. This is 328ft (100m) long, with real vegetation, including 27 trees, almost 12,000 plants, and a vertical ‘living’ plant wall. But, unlike its New York inspiration, it includes, at its lower level, a ‘town center.’ At night, it’s a quiet and serene area. Vintages wine and tapas bar is a chill-out venue, and there are several reservations-required, extra-charge dining venues; arguably the best is 150 Central Park, while Chops Grille and Giovanni’s Table have become favorites.
The Royal Promenade is the equivalent of a floating shopping mall, with casual food eateries (including a Starbucks coffee store, located at the forward end and open 7am-11pm daily), shops with all kinds of merchandise, video screens, and changing color lights at every step. It’s all a bit surreal - like being in a circus at sea, with something going on every minute. But one thing not to be missed is the ‘Move On! Move On!’ parade, a delightful circus-like extravaganza that includes characters from DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar. Interior-view promenade cabins have balconies that look down onto the action in Central Park. A hydraulic, oval-shaped Rising Tide Bar moves slowly through three decks linking the double-width Royal Promenade with Central Park.
The Pool and Sports Zone forward of the twin funnels is a real adventurous fun place for families. An adults-only open-air solarium and rentable cabanas are part of the outdoor scene today, and Oasis provides several. Two Flow-Riders (surf simulators) are part of the sports line-up; these are located atop the ship around the aft exhaust mast, together with basketball courts and golf. The ship also has the largest jogging track at sea.
The Solarium is a most welcoming large, light-filled and restful (despite the background music) space. High atop ship, it is frequented by few children - so adults can ‘escape’ the Las Vegas-like atmosphere of other areas. On the subject of casinos, the roulette tables are stunning - all electronic and touch-buttony. There’s also blackjack, craps, Caribbean Stud Poker, and 450 slot machines, plus a player’s club and poker room - but this really can be a smoke-filled place, even in the ‘no-smoking’ area. The casino entrance features gaming history.
If all 5,400 passengers want a sunlounger at the same time, forget it! Anyone able to secure one will find them so tightly packed together that there’s little space to put any belongings. Sadly, exterior wooden railings have mostly been replaced by fibreglass railings - it’s particularly noticeable on the balconies.
Standing in line to make reservations for the main shows can be time-consuming and frustrating (the reservation booth is in the middle of the Royal Promenade). You could make them online before your cruise - good for families that like to plan their vacations together - but making changes can prove frustrating.
Ordering room service is complicated - only do so by using the interactive touch-screen television in your suite/cabin. Getting reservations in one of the specialty restaurants takes a bit of effort, unless you are in suite-grade accommodation. Smoking is permitted in several bars and lounges and the smell of stale smoke permeates several areas. Cigar smokers will probably be underwhelmed by the cigar lounge.
Allure of the Seas operates from the purpose-built $75 million Terminal 18 in Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), whose restroom facilities are minimal.
Disembarkation. When the two ‘flybridge’ gangways are working, disembarkation is relatively speedy, but when only one is working, a line forms in the Royal Promenade, in which case it’s better to sit somewhere until the line gets shorter. Disembarkation for non-US citizens can be appallingly slow.
Accommodation. There are a mind-boggling number of accommodation price grades, reflecting the choice of location and size. Suite occupants get access to a concierge lounge and associated services. There are many family-friendly cabins, but no single-occupancy cabins. The cabin numbering system is a bit awkward to get used to. In a first for RCI, cabin doors open outwards (towards you), as in many European and Scandinavian hotels. In many of the lower grade accommodations, closet access is awkward - often with a small sofa in the way. Most cabins are extremely small, given the size of the ship. Many suite-grade cabins have bathrooms with granite-look washbasin counter tops, and two washbasins. Some have bidets, Jacuzzi tubs, and a separate shower enclosure. Some Family Suite grades have a separate, small room with bunk beds; some, not all, have curtains to separate them. Some 395 interior balcony cabins have either Central Park or Royal Promenade views from their curved interior balconies (four are wheelchair-accessible), plus 80 cabins with windows (no balconies) and views of Central Park. Noise could be generated along the inner promenades, particularly late at night with street parades and non-stop music.
Loft Suites. Although a few ships such as the now withdrawn Queen Elizabeth 2, Saga Rose, and Saga Ruby had upstairs/downstairs suites, RCI introduced ‘loft’ suites to the Oasis-class ships. These offer fine ocean views from floor-to-ceiling, double-height windows. Each has a lower living area plus a private balcony with sun chairs, and a stairway that connects to the sleeping area which overlooks the living area and has extended ocean views. Modern designs are dotted with abstract, modern art pieces.
There are 28 Loft Suites - 25 measure 545 sq ft (51 sq m); three others (called Royal Loft Suites) measure 1,524 sq ft (141 sq m). Each sleeps up to six and each has a baby grand piano, indoor and outdoor dining areas, a wet bar, a library, and a large 843-sq-ft (78.3-sq-m) balcony with flat-screen TV set, entertainment area, and Jacuzzi. Two large Sky Loft Suites measure 722 sq ft (67 sq m) and 770 sq ft (71 sq m), and a 737-sq-ft (68-sq-m) Crown Accessible Loft Suite includes an elevator to aid disabled passengers.
Standard cabins (balcony and non-balcony class). Electrical sockets are located below the vanity desk (user-unfriendly). Also, it’s difficult to watch television from the bed.
Washbasins in non-suite grade cabins are low, at just 30½ins (77.5cm) above the floor level, and tiny. Be careful - it’s easy to hit your head on the mirror above. Small soap bars are provided, while shampoo is in a dispenser in the shower enclosure. Unfortunately, the shower head is fixed, making it difficult to wash yourself thoroughly. Although there is no soap dish or indentation in the washbasin surround for soap, one useful touch is a blue ceiling bathroom nightlight.
Cabins are exposed to noise and whatever is happening on the Boardwalk, including rehearsals and sports activities in the aft Aqua Theater, bells from the carousel forward (its 18 sculptured wooden animal figures took six weeks to carve), rowdy revelers on the Boardwalk late at night, plus screaming ziplining participants during the day, not to mention loud music from bands playing poolside, and loud announcements by the cruise director repeating what’s printed in the daily program.
If you have a Boardwalk-view balcony cabin, you’ll need to close your curtains for privacy at times. However, the curved balconies - good for storing luggage to free up space inside the cabin - connect you with the open air and provide a community feeling, as you look across at balconies opposite. Almost all have a sea view aft (just); those close to the aft Aqua Theater can use their balconies for a great view of any shows. The lowest deck of Boardwalk-view cabins has windows but no balcony (actually the view is mainly of the top of things such as the carousel). The best Boardwalk balcony cabins are, in my view, located on decks 8-12. For more privacy, however, it might be best to book a sea-facing balcony cabin, not one that overlooks the Boardwalk.
Dining. Because Allure of the Seas is a large resort ship, meals in the main dining room - with over 500 tables spread over three decks - are all about well-timed production cooking and fast delivery − essentially banquet catering. The food is mostly underwhelming. When you book, choose one of two seatings, or ‘My Time Dining’ (eat when you want, during dining room hours).
Other dining options. 150 Central Park, the most exclusive restaurant, combines haute-cuisine with interesting design. A kitchen observation window allows passers-by to watch the chefs. It’s open for dinner only, reservations are required and there’s an extra charge.
Chops Grille, RCI’s popular ‘signature’ steakhouse, is open for dinner only, and features large premium-cut steaks and grilled seafood. There’s a cover charge, and reservations are required.
Chef’s Table, on the upper level of the Concierge lounge, is available to all, and features a six-course meal with wine. It is hosted by the executive chef, but, with just 14 seats, getting a reservation could prove challenging (a high cover charge applies).
Giovanni’s Table (cover charge for dinner and reservations are required): this casual Italian-ish dining spot has a rustic feel. It features toasted herb breads, pizzas, salads, pastas, sandwiches, braised meat dishes, and stews (it’s worth the price if you’re hungry).
Central Park Café, a casual deli-style spot with much variety and flexibility, is an indoor/outdoor food market with line-up counters and limited waiter service. Items include freshly prepared salads, made-to-order sandwiches, panini, crêpes, and hearty soups. You order directly from the chefs behind the food stations.
Rita’s Cantina, on the Boardwalk, is a noisy canteen offering quasi-Mexican fare. The cover charge is high for what it is and you’ll need to a wait to get a tablecloth-less table. But then it is a bit of a cantina - so it lives up to its name.
Vintages, is a wine bar with a robust selection of decent wines, accompanied by cheese and tapas (with an à la carte item charge).
Other Boardwalk snacking spots: Donut Shop (for hot dogs, wieners, bratwurst, and sausages), and an Ice Cream Parlor.
Entertainment. The 1,380-seat main showlounge spans three decks, and stages the musical Chicago - an excellent, 90-minute-long production, just like the Broadway show (performed four times each cruise). Also, Frozen in Time is a stunning, must-see ice show at the ice-skating rink.
There’s no charge for any show, and bookings can be made at www.royalcaribbean.com up to three months before your cruise, although reservations are not required. It is, however, quite difficult to change any reservations.
The 750-seat AquaTheater, outside at the ship’s stern (with some overhang) has a 6,000-sq-ft (560-sq-m) stage, is a combination show theatre, sound stage, and events space (some great viewing places can be found high in the aft wings of the ship on both sides). A DreamWorks Animation aquatic acrobatic and dive show is also presented.
DreamWorks Animation Studios provides interactive shows featuring characters from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, and How to Train Your Dragon.
Spa/Fitness. The Vitality at Sea Spa includes a Vitality Café for extra-cost health drinks and snacks. The fitness center includes 158 cardio and resistance machines. An extra-cost thermal suite includes saunas, steam rooms, and heated tiled loungers. You can’t just take a sauna for 10 minutes without paying for a one-day pass, at $30 per person. Steiner Leisure provides the staff and treatments.
It’s not that large. Try not to book a massage when the ship is due to arrive or leave an anchor port − some treatment rooms experience immense vibration when the anchor chain is in use. Sports facilities include two (Surfrider) surfboard pools, golf putting course, ziplining (screaming mandatory), and an ice-skating rink - it’s amazingly popular for kids.