Royal Caribbean’s revolutionary new cruise (the largest in the world) is a floating city of fun complete with seven signature shows, 26 dining options, a DreamWorks partnership … and a central park.
By Michael Clements
The words “Is that an entire city block?” immediately escaped my lips as the bus from Fort Lauderdale airport turned in Port Everglades revealing the world’s largest cruise ship. I’ve seen cruise ships – they’re big – but Royal Caribbean’s new Allure of the Seas is gigantic –an Escalade in a Mini-cooper world, Lebron James playing against high school kids, “The Biggest Loser” loser on a scale next to a Fashion Week model. How ginormous? She spans 16 decks, encompasses 225,282 gross registered tons, carries 5,400 guests at double occupancy, and features 2,700 staterooms.
And it has neighborhoods – seven of them, including a heavily-foliaged Central Park walkway complete with al-fresco dining and piped-in bird chirps; a playful Boardwalk; the Royal Promenade; a massive Pool and Sports Zone; the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center; the street-like Entertainment Place filled with different clubs, a casino, shopping, and a Youth Zone. The ship will alternate between Western and Eastern Caribbean seven-night itineraries.
With all this size, don’t expect ultra-exclusive, high-end luxury, but this isn’t a cast-a-wide-net budget cruise liner either. Allure fits comfortably in the middle stretching at points to reach each end. There are certainly luxury touches – the Vitality at Sea Spa is a serene, minimally-Zen, yet befittingly spacious spa with top-of-the-line thermal suites, an enrichment lounge, salon, and luxe medi-spa. 150 Central Park is an exclusive hard-to-get-into boutique dining spot serving a multi-course tasting menu tucked quietly away in the Central Park gardens. I would have tried it, but while we were sailing Katie Holmes and Adam Sandler were shooting a film and Royal Caribbean’s top investors were on board. Meanwhile, the Concierge Lounge is reserved for Grand Suite or Diamond Plus members.
With the capacity for 5,400 guests, the ship also offers something for everyone. If I had to choose one top aspect – which is not easy … this is the world’s largest cruise ship after all – it would be how the architects carved out so many hidden nooks. Just because a ship is gargantuan, doesn’t mean it has to be impersonal. Wandering Allure’s 16 decks and discovering individually-designed and themed nooks and crannies ultimately was what made this cruise so enjoyable.
I’m giving myself a second aspect – the entertainment options rock (notably, so do the 30-foot climbing walls, the Flowrider surf simulator, and zip line … yes, there’s a zip line on board.) But I digress. Allure of the Seas shares the title of the world’s largest with sister-ship Oasis of the Seas; but they have a number of differences, most notably the onboard entertainment (although the first Starbucks at sea is nice touch too.) There are seven different productions for passengers to enjoy. The main productions are Chicago: The Musical, a classic reproduction of a classic Broadway play; Oceanaria, a Circ-esque water diving show with a custom-built outdoor aquatic stage; and Blue Planet, a Royal Caribbean exclusive production built around earthy themes of mountain, rain forests and the ocean (hint: you’ll love the tree scene). Most impressive is the size of state-of-the-art, 1,380-seat Amber Theatre where Chicago and Blue Planet are staged – it’s larger than most Broadway stages.
There’s an ice-rink as well where guests can see Ice Games, a monopoly-themed ice skating show and How to Train Your Dragon, a short 30-minute show based on the DreamWorks 3-D movie. This would probably be a good place to mention the Allure of The Seas / DreamWorks partnership. Royal Caribbean inked a deal with the famous animation studio to extend any of the DreamWorks properties on board. So, don’t be surprised if you see Shrek, KungFu Panda, or the penguins from Madagascar roaming around. If you want to see them all in one place, you can catch the Move it! Move it! Street show. All this plus the comedy showroom and a “Headliner Showroom” is constantly circulating performers, singers, jugglers, magicians and more.
All of this activity does make one hungry. The quality of the food ranges from run-of-the-mill fast food to world-class. There are 26 dining options onboard. The crown jewel is the stately three-story Adagio Dining Room built around a massive chandelier harking back to a time when coat and tie (not crocs) were de rigueur at sea. You should note that reservations are needed for Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table, Izumi Asian Cuisine, 150 Central Park, and Samba Grill, an authentic Brazilian churrascaria steakhouse. If you’re looking for a quick lunch or snack, you can stop into Johnny Rockets, Boardwalk Dog House (my favorite), Park Café, or Sorrento’s Pizza.
Kids and teens are well accounted for – there are “Youth Zones” on Decks 14 and 15 with loads of programs and hang-out lounges. Once the kiddies go to bed, parents and the kids-less have plenty to keep them busy. Some of my favorite nightspots were the stylish Viking Crown Lounge (perfect for watching the sunset), Jazz on 4 (for the live Jazz or course), and the Rising Tide Bar (which levitates up and down between three floors). The high-energy Disco street party had everybody heading to Funky Town.
Overall, this is more Vegas meets the local mall then high-end St. Tropez jet set, but who cares; it’s fun, it’s new, it’s vacation! Even for seasoned cruisers there is something to see, if not just to say that you’ve been on the world’s largest cruise ship. There are two types of people who take cruises: those who like the ports of call – the ship is just the means to the end, and passengers who have seen enough straw markets in their lifetime and simply want to “chillax” onboard. Allure of the Seas can accommodate both, but this is a ship for those who like the cruise more than the port of call. This ship is the destination. Either way, the allure of Royal Caribbean’s splashy new entrant into the crowded deep-end of cruise industry is hard to resist.