I had grand plans of periscoping and doing a live blog on Cruise Critic as part of my cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas but you know what happens to the best laid plans. We departed for Florida for our pre-cruise stay on November 12th, 2016 which was just a few days after the presidential election. Without getting too political, my Facebook feed was flooded with posts from friends who were very scared about the direction our country would take under a Trump presidency, and also with so many accounts of hate filled acts that were happening all over the United States and even right in my area. I shared many of these concerns and it was very difficult to detach and enjoy being on a cruise when I wasn’t sure what we would be coming home to. I did try my best to have fun not only because I didn’t want to worry my mom and also because I had been looking forward to the cruise for so long and I really did want to enjoy it as much as I could.
Usually my mom and I fly to the cruise port the day of the cruise, but recently we’ve been flying in a day earlier and we decided to do that again for this cruise. After reviewing all available hotel options we decided to stay at the GALLERYone, which is a Doubletree Suites by Hilton hotel. I wrote a review of our stay and you can find that here.
We only had one day in Fort Lauderdale so I wanted a hotel that was centrally located to all of the things we wanted to do. I bought a Groupon for the Water Taxi and there is a stop right at the hotel so that was definitely a plus. My mom and I were supposed to go to dinner at the Texas de Brazil restaurant in our hometown prior to the cruise but that never happened, so the fact that there was one within walking distance of the GALLERYone was another advantage. There was also an upscale mall within walking distance and a nice outlet mall within about 30 minutes if we (ok, if I) decided to do some shopping. We ended up not going to either mall but it was nice to have those options. We didn’t need the hotel to be right next to the cruise port (there are several hotels that are very close to Port Everglades) but we wanted to be within a 20 minute Uber ride and we were with the GALLERYone. Finally, we wanted to be near a Publix to pick up any food or miscellaneous items for the room and/or cruise and there was one within walking distance.
I think our flight arrived at FLL around 2pm, so by the time we collected our luggage, arranged the Uber and arrived at the hotel I expected our room to be ready for us. Once we arrived at the hotel we soon realized that might not be possible because it was clear that there was an event being held there. We hung out in the lobby and about two hours later we were notified that our room was ready so we headed up to check it out. I booked us in a 2 Queen Bed Suite with Balcony and Canal View. They do offer suites with two separate bedrooms but since we were only going to be there one night we decided the standard suite would be fine. I really liked our room and it was more than enough space for the two of us.
After we settled in, we walked to Texas de Brazil for an early dinner. You do have to cross a busy road to get there but there is a crosswalk with a signal and there were always several other people walking too so it is a pedestrian-friendly area.
Dinner was amazing and afterwards we went back to the hotel to catch the water taxi. We weren’t planning on getting off at any of the stops and were just using it as a little tour of the area, but a few of the other passengers were using it to bar hop and I could see that being really fun. I think the guide mentioned that there was a way to connect to one of the taxis that goes to the Hard Rock hotel in Hollywood, FL and if we had more time we definitely would have done that. Since it was November a lot of the homes on the canal had their holiday lights up and it was very pretty to see them from the water. The full loop tour with no stops took about an hour and I would definitely recommend it. After the tour, we returned to the hotel and called it a night.
Unlike most extended stay hotels, breakfast wasn’t included with our room and we decided not to buy the breakfast buffet at the onsite restaurant. We made the quick walk to Publix and got some brunch there to bring back to the room. After we ate we went down to the lobby to check out and head over to Port Everglades. The hotel does offer a shuttle service but we decided to Uber instead.
Boarding the Allure and First Impressions
While we were on the water taxi the night before the cruise I got an email and texts notifying us that there was a GI (read: Norovirus) outbreak on the cruise before ours and that boarding would be delayed so they could thoroughly sanitize the ship. This would be enough to make anyone concerned but my mom contracted Noro on a previous cruise so she was worried that she would be unlucky enough to get it again (she didn’t). We were told by Royal that we should get to Port Everglades around 1:00pm but since we had to check out of the hotel and didn’t have anything else to do we still got there at our original time of around 11am.
Everyone else must have disregarded their assigned arrival time too because the terminal area was already pretty crowded. The suite area was full (well, a lot of people were using seats for their bags instead of making them available to other passengers) so a Royal rep created an overflow suite area in the general seating area. We did wait for about an hour or so before we were allowed to board, and in the future I think we’ll try to board a little later in the day to avoid the initial rush.
This was my 19th cruise and my mom’s 20th so I consider us to be pretty seasoned cruisers, but I was definitely wowed when we stepped onto the Allure. I had spent days looking at pictures of the ship, watching YouTube videos of the ship and Periscope broadcasts of the ship but nothing prepared me for how large and unique the Allure is. I will say that we definitely noticed the lack of water views from public areas of the ship but there are plenty of places to see the ocean if you want to, you just have to seek them out a little bit more.
Since the Allure carries so many passengers our main concern about this ship was how crowded it would be. I can honestly say that the only time we felt like there were thousands of people onboard was when boarding started but the cabins weren’t open yet. Once they opened the ship felt much less crowded, and the only other times we noticed how many people were on the ship was during normal “rush hour” times like before/after the shows, peak dinner time, etc but even then it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Unless you are really averse to being around a lot of people I wouldn’t let the passenger size of the Allure put you off this ship (or any others in its class) because it generally didn’t feel overcrowded.
The ship, being fairly new, was in excellent condition and I didn’t notice any areas that showed a lot of wear. I’m navigationally challenged and even I found the layout to be user friendly and easy to understand despite the large size.
Crown Loft Suite
Ever since we saw pictures of the loft suites when they first came out my mom and I knew we had to sail in one one day. Until recently we were pretty loyal Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) cruisers because we liked the suite perks they offered and the 2 bedroom Haven suites. When we decided that we would go on Royal for our next cruise we of course looked at the loft suites. Unfortunately the 2 bedroom Aquatheater suite was already booked for our sailing so we decided to get the Crown Loft. We didn’t realize that the Crown Lofts were in different locations on the ship so we had to decide whether we wanted to overlook the water or the sports deck. Since every previous balcony we had overlooked the water we decided to try something new and book the L2 Crown Loft which overlooked the sports deck, which saved us money as well since it was slightly cheaper than the L1. This proved to be a great decision as we loved being able to step out on the balcony and seeing what was going on below not just on the sports deck but even in the Boardwalk and Aquatheater. Yes, people can look up and see you but we don’t do anything on the balcony where we need lots of privacy so that wasn’t an issue for us. I did watch one aqua show from the balcony and while I could see everything it would definitely be better to watch from the theater.
When we booked the L2 I didn’t realize it had two bathrooms until I did more research on it so that was a great surprise. The bedroom area was a bit tight once the beds were separated but it was perfectly manageable. The mattresses had toppers on them and they were still a bit firm (and I love firm mattresses) so I can only imagine how hard they would be without them. We had absolutely no complaints about the bathrooms and having one downstairs really worked for us because my mom used that one since she gets up early in the morning.
We absolutely loved being on deck 17 because it meant the only guest traffic in the hallway was from the other guests staying in the lofts, plus the corridor was much wider than the other passenger decks. We had breakfast every morning in the Coastal Kitchen and would stop by for drinks daily in the Concierge Lounge so being only steps away from both was a huge convenience.
Ports of Call
We were on a Western Caribbean itinerary so we stopped at Cozumel, Labadee and Falmouth with three seas days. This wasn’t the most exciting itinerary, but then again we were going for the ship and not the ports. The one highlight was that it stopped at Labadee because we had never been there before. We’ve been to Cozumel many times so I don’t think we even got off the ship that day. In Falmouth we booked the Dunns River Falls and Bobsled tour, which was ok but not great.
I absolutely loved Labadee and can’t wait to go back. Over the past few cruises I’ve suddenly become a beach person and I loved how private and uncrowded the suite/VIP area, Barefoot Beach, was. There was some kind of medical emergency that delayed our arrival into Labadee but luckily it didn’t interfere with our 11:30 reservation for the zipline. This was my mom’s third time ziplining and my second so we were both really looking forward to it. I liked how you have a little practice run on a small zipline before you go to the main one because even though we booked the zipling when Royal was having a sale on shore excursions it was still pretty expensive for what it was. Two things I preferred about this zipline over the one we did at Gatorland in Florida (which I recommend) was that this harness was more of a chair as opposed to feeling like you’re being held up by your waist, and that the attendants released us down the line as opposed to us stepping off the platform. Even though this is an expensive excursion I highly recommend it and I can see myself doing it every time I go to Labadee. I’m bummed that I wasn’t able to record it but hopefully I can next time.
This was a great cruise and I can honestly say that I prefer the larger ships, which is something I never thought I would say prior to this cruise. We’re looking to book another Oasis (or Harmony) class ship soon but as of now our next cruise will be on Adventure of the Seas, which is an older, smaller ship. It’ll be interesting to see if we miss the amenities of the larger ships but even if we do a day at sea is better than a day at work so I’m looking forward to it either way.
If you have any questions about this cruise or cruises in general feel free to ask below!