All Aboard the Allure of the Seas
I woke up at 4am and just could not get back to sleep. I was ridiculously excited to be spending Christmas with the kids onboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas. Although I was aiming to get to the port early, travelling as a single parent with a toddler, a teenager, four suitcases, a pushchair, a changing bag and a handbag with travel documents and other much needed items in can put the best laid plans to rest. We had to drop the rental car off at Fort Lauderdale airport and get a shuttle to the port. But first there was the small matter of stocking up on nappies, wipes, hairspray, pencil sharpener and other random items, and dealing with a screaming toddler throwing a tantrum in Walgreens because he couldn’t have a pack of toy cars he had seen. We eventually arrived at the car drop off point only to remember I was supposed to have refuelled the car. So off we went again in search of a gas station. Note to self – Bring another adult with me next time I travel!
There are moments in your life that you will NEVER forget. Trying to convey the emotion I felt as I stepped onto the Allure of the Seas Royal Promenade is making me well up. I took the brave step of leaving the comforts of my Royal Caribbean family in 2012 to start my own travel agency specialising in cruising. That coincided with some personal difficulties which left me in an unenviable financial situation. Fast forward three years after the arrival of my son Joshua in 2013, the closure of the Royal Caribbean call centre in the UK and a strong and healthy cruise business, I was able to pat myself on the back for surviving and being able to get myself and my two children onboard the largest cruise ship in the world. Some achievement even if I say so myself, and to top it all off, it was Christmas.
When we arrived in our stateroom, there was a lovely welcome bottle of bubby and a fruit plate from Dominic Paul, SVP Royal Caribbean International. Gestures like this really make you feel special and the staff onboard the Allure of the Seas were so genuinely friendly and caring that I felt totally relaxed and at home.
The Allure of the Seas Vitality Spa is incredible and has a thermal suite with heated loungers, steam room, dry heat room and aromatherapy room.
I had the mammoth task of unpacking whilst Joshua tried taking everything out of the mini bar and kept calling people on our room phone. Once that was done and I’d signed up for the drinks package and the wifi package and changed our dining venue from Silk to the Grande (because I adore the decor in there including the chairs).
Joshua spent a couple of hours in the nursery and I went off to the salon for a manicure and pedicure. After that we were all ready for dinner.
Allure of the Seas still has a main restaurant but the set time dining is on deck 4, The Grand and deck 5, Silk. For people who are after flexible dining, the My Time option takes place on deck 3 in the American Icon Grill. The only difference between the restaurants is the decor, otherwise you are still dining in a three storey dining room as before.
Is it worth paying extra for a balcony? Most definitely, but if you are on a budget, an interior or oceanview stateroom is usually the same size, it just means you have to get yourself out of your room to experience the views, which is not a bad thing. Having said that, if you time it right you can get a balcony for not a lot more and some cruise lines offer free balcony upgrades. Speak to your cruise specialist for details.
I decided that it was more beneficial for us to stay onboard the Allure of the Seas because we only had 7 days to explore the ship and already we were on day two.
First I needed a coffee, but I knew Joshua wouldn’t sit down quietly while I enjoyed my first one of the day. I walked onto the Boardwalk as I knew it was an area that Joshua could safely run around in without me having to keep stopping him from touching things. There is a Donut Shop on Allure of the Seas, where you can help yourself to coffee in ‘to-go’ cups so it was perfect. I found a couple of other parents with their children who were doing the same thing, so I had company while I drank my coffee, and the kids made new friends.
I thought that choosing the Windjammer (self service buffet), would be the best choice for us, with it’s wide range of foods to choose from. However walking with a pushchair and trying to plate up some food is pretty tricky especially without getting in everyone’s way. I tried giving Josh a yoghurt and going off to get more food, but I just couldn’t be sure he would stay put. A staff member came up to us and asked if I wanted any tea or coffee. She brought me a coffee and offered to sit with Joshua while I got myself some breakfast. It was a relief to be able to get something, but I could see that I would have to rethink this for the rest of the cruise.
Lucy and I had booked a seaweed soak treatment which promised to help with all sorts of things including detox, restoring alkaline and helping to remove cellulite. We thought we would give it a try, so I dropped Joshua off at the nursery and we went off to the Spa.
When you go to the Vitality Spa onboard the Allure of the Seas, you step into a completely different zone to the rest of the ship. It is tranquil and the sights, sounds and smells just make you instantly relax. The staff were lovely and showed us to the relaxation lounge.
We waited there for a few minutes until we were shown to the treatment room and told how to change the temperature and water levels if necessary.
After a lovely hour spent catching up on girl talk and hopefully doing some good to our bodies, Lucy and I went to the thermal suite to relax on the heated beds. I needed to get back to the nursery to pick Joshua up, so all too soon our spa visit was over and it was time to be Mummy again.
At the nursery Joshua had really enjoyed himself, and having a giant sized piano to walk over, meant it took longer than planned to leave the Adventure Ocean area.
We went to the Windjammer to grab a bit of lunch, then met Lucy by the pool in the H2O zone. Joshua and I played in the baby splash zone for a little while which is especially for children in swim nappies. There are restrictions on how much chlorine can be used on cruise ships, which is why they do not allow children in swim nappies in the main pools. Many Royal Caribbean ships have a dedicated splash zone for these children which is fantastic for families, otherwise someone would have to sit with the child while everyone else enjoyed the water. Not to mention the problems it causes trying to keep a toddler away from all the family fun. Although Royal Caribbean have introduced these facilities to their newest ships like Allure of the Seas, they are not common on other cruiselines so it is best to check before you book if you are looking for one.
That evening was our first formal night and the Allure of the Seas Captain and Officers introduced themselves from an elevated platform on the Royal Promenade. Complimentary champagne was being handed out and there was a festive atmosphere.
After dinner Lucy went off to meet her new teen friends and Josh and I had a little stroll on the Boardwalk which, at night, looks stunning.
So after my experience of trying to enjoy a lovely breakfast with toddler in the self service restaurant, I thought I would try the main dining room. That way all I had to do was keep an eye on Joshua and the breakfast would be brought to us. It was a bit of a challenge, but the staff were really friendly and helpful and not only made me feel welcome, they interacted with Joshua as well. I was thrilled to see my favourite breakfast of Eggs Benedict was on the menu, so I didn’t hesitate to order it….. everyday for the rest of our cruise!
There is a hot breakfast menu, but you can also get pastries, cereal, fruit, juice, tea and coffee.
First thing on the agenda for the day was a welcome back party for Royal Caribbean’s guests who are members of the Crown and Anchor Society. This was held on the Boardwalk and we were greeted by a selection of cocktails, champagne and mimosas.
Then it was a quick visit to the nursery to drop Joshua off before attending another little reception in one of the many music venues onboard Allure of the Seas, Jazz on 4. Aptly named due to the fact they play Jazz and it’s located on deck 4. I met the lovely Marina Baklarova, Hotel Administrative Assistant who made me feel extremely welcome and told me I could contact her if I needed anything. When you are travelling as the only adult, it is very reassuring to know you have someone like Marina to call on if you need any help with anything.
After collecting Joshua from the nursery, who seemed to be having the time of his life there, we went for lunch and after which I pushed him around the vast areas of the ship until he fell asleep. This gave me the opportunity to upload some videos and photos and update my Allure of the Seas blog. The wifi technology on this ship is amazing and the connection was so instant it was just like being at home. For a cruise ship, that is hard to achieve in port, let alone on a day at sea.
There is a daily cruise compass which is like a daily paper, placed in your room. This tells you all the activities that are going on during the day and evening onboard, as well as locations and opening times of various restaurants and sports facilities. I had seen there was a family disco in Dazzles from 7 – 8, which fitted in perfectly with our dinner sitting of 8.30. My plan was to wear Joshua out at the disco so that he would sit quietly in the restaurant. On the way to the disco we walked along the Royal Promenade and a gorgeous Gingerbread village had appeared. I couldn’t linger as Joshua was trying to grab at it, so I took a quick blurry photo and rushed off to Dazzles.
There was a great atmosphere in the family disco and they were playing various games. I enjoyed a pre-dinner gin and tonic at the bar, while Joshua danced his socks off with the other children. You may wonder why there are no other children in the vicinity of Joshua , but I have taken care in all my photos not to include other people’s kids, so I had to wait for those opportunities to arise.
Joshua worked up an appetite after all that dancing and tucked into a lovely chicken dinner.
Breakfast, plan C was to get room service so that I could have a coffee and get ready, while Joshua picked his way through the fruit, cereal and pastries. It worked well, but I felt bad for Janelle, our stateroom attendant, so we didn’t repeat the experience.
As an early riser, there was plenty of time for me to take in the breathtaking sights around the ship before we docked in St Thomas.
As I had read about Magens Bay being one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, I felt it was an absolute must for me to get off the ship and see it for myself.
It had come to my attention that I had been on the ship for 4 days and not yet walked through Central Park. I was starting to realise that 7 days simply wasn’t going to be long enough. So off I went to take a walk and some photos and videos.
Another place I realised I hadn’t visited so far, was the Boardwalk Dog House. I love hot dogs, and this place offers a whole range of different types. The thought of having a hot dog and a beer for lunch on Christmas Eve made me smile, so I headed down to the Boardwalk.
After a bite to eat it was time to soak up the sun.
With a nice bit of tanning done, we got ready for our Christmas Evening. It was a big one for the teens as they were having a party. I had booked Joshua into the nursery so that I could relax and enjoy a nice meal.
I took Joshua to the Windjammer for some dinner and enjoyed a glass of Prosecco to start the Christmas Eve celebrations. Trying to keep in the spirit of the things you are least likely to do on Christmas Eve (after the hot dog and beer lunch), we headed to the Boardwalk for a ride on the Carousel. This is when it really hit me what we were doing and how amazing it really was.
Not bad considering I was on a moving vessel, on a revolving carousel, holding a baby and a camera after a glass of Prosecco. Pretty impressive I thought. Once I’d signed Joshua into the nursery I went off to enjoy a three course meal in the main restaurant.
It was the best present I could have given myself. To be waking up on the Allure of the Seas in the Caribbean. What could be the furthest thing from sitting around in our pj’s unwrapping presents through bleary eyes on a cold and dark Christmas morning? Breakfast with the Dreamworks Characters of course!
Alex, King Julien and Gloria came along to join us.
During dinner the restaurant staff paraded around the restaurant singing Jingle Bells. This was my favourite part as our Head Waiter Oscar, and main waitress, Mitzi, walked past us singing and smiling. Oscar is in the front. We loved him.
After dinner I took a walk around the ship, thinking what I should do next and admiring my wonderful surroundings.
I decided the most unusual thing I could do was to go and sit in the hot tub. Most of the guests were travelling with large families and spending time with them, so I had it all to myself. It was heavenly.
The thing is, by day 7 of your cruise, you really do settle in to the way of life and learn how to get the most out of everything. You realise you are not going to be on the ship for another 24 hours and want to get as much in (your stomach) as possible. So Joshua and I started with donuts on the boardwalk. I had mine with a coffee and Joshua with his milk. I had the key lime pie ring donut and Joshua had the chocolate one. They were absolutely heavenly.
Once that had gone down, we headed for American Icon Grill which is where they were serving breakfast. I had my last eggs benedict of the cruise.
The full Allure of the Seas Bridge Tour review can be found here
We couldn’t miss our last chance to see our favourite Dreamworks characters, and luckily for us, Shrek and Princess Fiona stopped right in front of us.
The final sunset from our balcony on the Allure of the Seas and a little rainbow to promise that we will return.