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Sunday, June 22, 2014

What’s Alluring About the World’s Largest Cruise Ship

What’s the allure of the world’s largest ship? In a word, entertainment. Of the four cruise lines I’ve sailed with, no one does it better than Royal Caribbean.
 
The fare served up on the stages of Allure of the Seas is a refreshing departure from the usual shipboard shows and are worth the effort of scheduling your trip around them.
 
Allure’s full production of the musical “Chicago” was great fun, and the voices were strong and

Broadway on the seas.
clear. How neat is that—a Broadway-quality show for free! And if you get to the theater super early, you can even get the best seats in the house.
 

Then there was “Ocean Aria,” a diving and acrobatic show that’s so compelling you won’t want to take your eyes away for a second.

Adonis-like acrobat brothers wrap their bodies around each other in poses where you can’t tell where one body ends and the other begins. Divers from 90 ft. high fly into the air and amazingly, land gracefully and securely into the Allure’s tiny theater pool.
 
Inside the ship, on the ice rink, professional skaters—one a veteran of “Disney on Ice”—twirl, jump, spin and lift, while on a moving vessel, no less. The “Monopoly” theme lent itself well to playful and colorful sets and costumes.
 
Soaring from 90 ft. up.
The singers from “Chicago” re-emerged in “Blue Planet,” which had everything thrown in—acrobatics, singing and dancing—all in a celebration of nature. I won’t give it all away, but it included a trampoline, large rings and a human tree.
 
This comes on top of onboard surfing, ice skating, zip-lining, rock climbing and miniature golf. And then there are the three “neighborhoods;” their personalities ebbing and flowing by the hour. There’s the Promenade, the hub of the ship and venue for parades, dance classes and the best people-watching; Boardwalk, where you can ride a full-size carousel over and over again for free or eat foot-high pink cotton candy for a cost; and Central Park, an oasis of real foliage (but fake bird sounds).
 
Exciting, yes. But it does steal the show from the real leading lady—the mysterious, fascinating and ever-changing sea.
 
Not as Alluring
The Allure’s weak spot is the food. Some dinner dishes in the Main Dining Room were good (memorable was the shrimp on Italian-theme night), others were disappointing (Chicken Marsala was rendered as fried chicken with a nearly invisible sauce).
 
But what we most noticed—and missed—was the absence of beef choices, particularly compared to competing cruise lines.
 
We found that among the free dining options, the Windjammer buffet was often the best choice. Not only did it have a wider variety (shrimp crackers, anyone?), but some standout spicy Asian choices. It was a nice break from the usually bland and unimaginative dining room dishes.
 
Aside from the food, the other area where the ship doesn’t compare well to, say, the Caribbean Princess, is the staterooms. While okay on size, the Allure’s cabins offered less in the way of storage space. The closets are tight and night tables have open slots, which make them minimally useful.

Another downside is that the balcony chairs don’t recline, which makes seaside napping a challenge (but nothing that a glass of wine can’t cure!).
 
The Bottom Line
But, hey, you can’t be good at everything.


This may seem heretical, given all that the Allure and Oasis have going for them, but Musing wouldn’t recommend these ships for first-time cruisers. Because you’ll be permanently spoiled, and forever searching for the carousel and ice skating rink on every other ship.

Musing’s Top Tip: to really appreciate “Chicago,” stream or rent the movie version before your trip. And don’t forget to reserve all your shows online well in advance of your cruise. You can try to get in once on board, but be forewarned—the lines for standby outside the shows were substantial.

 
Photos by R. Greenburg