I’ve got the travel bug, and I’ve got it bad.
I just love exploring whether it’s down the road or around the globe. I want to see it all. So many places, so little time. For this reason, cruises are a great option. They give you the opportunity to check a few destinations off your list at one time. The downside is that they are quickie whirlwind visits, but it’s nice to get a taste of a particular place and then you can always head back later for a lengthier visit.
I recently had the opportunity to cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, the largest ship in the world, so of course I have to share the experience with you, dear TNLers.
This post will be all about my cruise experience, so fear not American readers, it will apply to you as well. But, I need to start with an important message for the local folk.
So, umm…you know how a growing number of Canadians fly out of the US because airfare is cheaper? Yeah. I’ve done it before. You fly out of Buffalo and save a bit of cash. Loads of people do it. That is why, when I booked a plane ticket to Florida to catch our boat I just pretty much assumed it was Buffalo.
Lesson learned= Never assume.
Read this next part carefully, k?
Please know that THERE IS AN AIRPORT CALLED BUFFALO NIAGARA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AND THERE IS ANOTHER DIFFERENT AIRPORT CALLED NIAGARA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT. Yeah. Let me fast forward my sob story and just let you know that we went to the wrong one. Happy ending though, we made it to the correct airport (27 minutes before boarding) and all was well. Nothing like a little panic attack to get your vacay started right.
Back to cruise. Sorry, but that had to be noted.
Allure of the Seas
The Allure of the seas is the world’s largest cruise ship at present, carrying over 6000 passengers. She has been named Best Cruise Ship by Travel Weekly readers for the second year in a row. This ship is truly a larger than life experience, as it has everything you could ever want or need on board. We set sail from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale for a seven day adventure that would include ports in Bahamas, Jamaica and Mexico.
Aside from the erm…airport hiccup… the travel and embarkation of the boat was a breeze. It was organized and despite a long lineup, moved quickly and smoothly. When you check in, you are given a Sea Pass card that you will keep with you for the duration of the cruise. The Sea Pass is used as identification and instead of cash (you can settle your bill before you leave, or with a credit card). This was super handy, since we all know how much I hate holding things. No purse necessary…woot!
Our cabin was on the 8th floor (of 15!) at the front middle of the boat. We opted for no balcony, and it was fine as we didn’t spend much time in our room except for sleeping.
We felt it was spacious for a boat cabin, and we loves that there was a little coach and TV area with plenty of space to spread out our things.
Let me just say that you will not, ever be bored on this ship. There is something for everyone.
First of all you will eat. And eat… Then you will eat some more just for good measure. There are over 25 dining options on the boat including a steakhouse, café, tequila bar, sushi restaurant, buffet and the first Starbucks at Sea. I was a little confused as to who would pay money for Starbucks when there were a plethora of free café offerings on the boat but hey, what do I know?
Most days we opted for breakfast at the Solarium (a quieter and healthier alternative than the main buffet) and dinner at the American Icon a la carte restaurant. There was also 24 hour room service which we made very good use of (midnight French fries, anyone?) It was convenient and indulgent to be able to order multiples of things at no cost. I was guilty of ordering all the available seafood apps on a number of evenings. I regret nothing.
Alcoholic drinks are not included in the cost of the cruise, but they are available for purchase, either one at a time or as part of beverage packages. These are super pricey. BUT, fear not…you are allowed to board with two bottles of wine per stateroom. So I was happy.
To balance out all of the yummy food, we spent some time at the gym on board. The gym/spa area was gorgeous and extensive. Although you could certainly make do with the free classes and amenities, we also paid for a few yoga and spin classes ($15USD). Yoga was at the front of the boat on the helipad, truly an incredible experience.
Did I mention that this ship has everything? If shopping is your thing, there is a mall with stores like Kate Spade, Guess and Coach.
The mall also has a 24 hour pizza resto (free!) that had the most delicious seafood pizza ever.
The ship is divided into a number of different neighbourhoods. Each has their own character and charm. One of my favourites was the Central Park neighbourhood. It was full of lush greenery and even had piped in nature sounds so you really felt as though you were taking a stroll through a park. Pretty incredible to create an environment like this on a cruise ship.
Another very cool neighbourhood on the Allure of the Seas is the boardwalk. Here you’ll find a beautiful old school carousel, arcade, café and candy store.
When we weren’t eating on the Allure, we spent out days swimming and sunning. There was never an issue finding lounge chairs or prime sun spots as there were lots available.
If you aren’t quite as much of a lazy sun worshipper as I, there were also activities like mini golf, zip lining, ice skating, and rock wall climbing to help pass the time!
A track also circles the perimeter of the ship on deck 5, I enjoyed that scenic walk a few times during the week.
There was also lots to do at night. There were clubs, live music, pool parties and comedy shows available every evening. I wish I could tell you that I partook in all of these but some nights Grandma here just knocked out.
What I did have the opportunity to take in were the incredible productions that were offered on this cruise. the shows were absolutely incredible and the production value was the same as shows you would pay big money to see , even off the boat. Allure of the Seas features a 1300 person theatre where we saw Mamma Mia ( the exact same production as you would see it on Broadway) and the incredible show, Blue Planet. Blue Planet features a spectacular Cirque style musical performance with stunning imagery and costumes.
There was also a Monopoly themed ice show and high dive show at an aquatic theatre, pretty amazing!
The Allure of the Seas was an indulgent , incredible treat. The staff and crew were incredibly organized and hospitable, offering us an incredible week of spectacular food, activities and entertainment. I truly feel this is the best of the best as far as cruises are concerned and there really is something for everyone. My fear for a ship of 5000 people was that it would be crowded and overwhelming , but Royal Caribbean really succeeded in designing a ship that is both palatial and cozy with their neighbourhood layout.
As for the ports of call, I mentioned we went to Bahamas, Jamaica and Mexico. We were in each for about 7 hours. With the exception of Jamaica, (where I was a bridesmaid in my friend’s beautiful destination wedding!) the ports basically consisted of eating and beach time. So, Ill spare you the details and just share some highlight pics.
Congratulations to Karie-Ann and Babyche!
And of course, I also to a bit of time to pick up some elegant and cultured souvenirs, reflective of my travels:
My trip on Allure of the Seas was fantastic. I felt relaxed and pampered and returned truly rejuvenated and ready ( sort of) for the Canadian winter. I would highly recommend this ship to anyone looking for a full and indulgent cruise vacation. I hope you enjoyed a snapshot of my week on the Seas. If you’ve had the opportunity to cruise, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.