Port Everglades – 1850 Eller Drive, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
Royal Caribbean International Cruise Lines is a line celebrated by many in the cruise industry, and our first experience with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines was unlike any other cruise line we’ve ever experienced. Although we previously cruised with Disney and Carnival, we have always wanted to set sail on one of Royal’s mega ships. Finally, the stars aligned in the Fall when we decided it was time to book our very first ever cruise with Royal Caribbean International Cruise Lines. Read along as we share all the little details about our first ever cruise with Royal Caribbean to see what ship we chose, where we cruised, and how much fun we had at sea.
For our first ever cruise with Royal Caribbean, we had to do our research. What has always attracted us to Royal Caribbean was the amount of activities onboard their large ships, but what was keeping us away was the amount of people also onboard and all of the ‘for fee’ amenities. What we liked most about cruising in the past was the idea of an all-inclusive vacation where we pay one price, and then we never had to worry about ‘cost’ or ‘money’ again until we set foot on land. However, over the years that standard has since changed and now almost all cruise lines have caught the wave of up-charging their guests for additional services post-sail-away.
While onboard other cruise lines, we’ve often docked in port next to Royal ships wondering what it would be like to be onboard. Often times while we were walking along the dock into port with Royal cruisers, we always took notice of how much fun they seemed to be having! With over 25 ships in their fleet, we were more than confident that we could find a Royal Caribbean ship that would fit our travel style.
Overall, we knew what we loved and what was missing from the cruise lines we’ve experienced in the past, and we were hoping to find at least some of those things and more in Royal. In the same instance, we were hesitant to separate from a trusted brand like Disney Cruise Lines. We knew what we were getting with Disney, and we knew the level of customer service that we had come to love and expect over our years of cruising. We were hesitant to believe that a similar level of service could be found elsewhere, especially for a lower baseline price-point.
When it came to itineraries, we were looking for warm weather destinations with plenty of sea days. Sea days are when we spend our time exploring the ship and with Royal’s large ships, we wanted to be sure we had time to explore all they had to offer. We also wanted to visit exciting new places we’d never cruised before. After countless trips to the Bahamas and back, we knew it was time for us to explore new cruise ports. As a result, we chose a seven-night sail through the eastern Caribbean onboard the third largest cruise ship in the world, Allure of the Seas, leaving one Sunday in September and returning on the following Sunday.
Our itinerary for this seven-night eastern Caribbean cruise was as follows:
- Day 1 – Fort Lauderdale, Florida
- departs 4:30 p.m.
- Day 2 – Cruising
- Day 3 – Cruising
- Day 4 – Philipsburg, St. Maarten
- arrive 8:00 a.m. – depart 6:00 p.m.
- Day 5 – San Juan, Puerto Rico
- arrive 7:00 a.m. – depart 12:30 p.m.
- Day 6 – Labadee, Haiti
- arrive 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
- Day 7 – Cruising
- Day 8 – Arrive Fort Lauderdale, Florida
- arrive 6:15 a.m.
Allure of the Seas was introduced in November of 2009, and it is a member of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class. The Oasis Class is home to some of the largest cruise ships in the world including Harmony of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, and the reigning *largest cruise ship in the world*, Symphony of the Seas. We’ve had our eye on Allure and her sister ship Oasis of the Seas since their debut. The things that kept us coming back to this ship in particular over the years were the outdoor Aqua Theater for its sweeping open-air views off the aft of the ship, the number of amenities for active adults like rock climbing, surfing, and zip-lining, and the ability to walk through a fully landscaped Central Park-style green space day or night on a cruise ship.
Our cruise departed on a Sunday afternoon from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Prior to our cruise, we flew into Fort Lauderdale International Airport, rented a car, and spent several wonderful days at the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida. One of the perks of staying at this particular Resort is the ability to watch each afternoon as other cruise ships departed Port Everglades and headed south to Miami from our Resort’s rooftop pool or our Oceanview balcony.
For our stateroom we reserved an Oceanview balcony guaranteed stateroom. In this category, Royal selected our stateroom for us instead of us reserving a specific stateroom at the time of booking. Typically a discounted rate is offered to those who select this booking. Since we were new to Royal and their ships, and we were booking this cruise only a few weeks out from sailing, we had no preferences when it came to the location of our room – only that it had a balcony.
We were assigned Stateroom #7206 by Royal Caribbean which is a category 4D cabin located on Deck 7. This stateroom is located near the bow (front) and on the port (left) side of the ship. Our stateroom was located conveniently between the forward and aft staircase and elevators. This mid-ship location made getting around our mega ship very easy. There also were not any rooms directly across from our stateroom which probably cut down on the overall noise factor.
The interior of the stateroom was a very similar setup to that of Disney Cruise Line’s Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom‘s on the Disney Dream. It featured two twin beds that had been pushed together to create one king bed, a sofa, a desk, a small refrigerator, a wardrobe, a full size unobstructed balcony (just over 180 square feet) with a table and two chairs, and a bathroom with a shower, toilet, sink and plenty of built-in shelf storage for all of our toiletries and accessories.
Janine made full use of the wardrobe where she unpacked and organized all of our apparel. There was also a set of drawers in the desk area that we used for our swimsuits and workout gear. Once unpacked, all of our suitcases (and we do mean ALL of them) fit comfortably under our bed and were tucked neatly away out of sight. A set of hanging shelves and knobs used for Royal’s magazines and literature near the entrance was turned into a hat, sunglasses, and handbag staging area. The nearby sofa quickly became the catch-all for any souvenirs we acquired while in port.
We really enjoyed having a balcony stateroom onboard Royal Caribbean, and although we have also reserved interior rooms at times, we do try to always reserve a balcony when they are available. The balcony was large enough for two small seating chairs and a small table. For us, our stateroom balcony is a nice place to unwind after a full day in port. Also, we really enjoy the early morning views from our balcony as our ship pulls into port in an exciting new destination. A larger balcony that would fit two full size sun loungers would have been wonderful, but this balcony was certainly large enough for this particular cruise.
The only downside of our balcony in stateroom 7206 was that we didn’t feel it offered much privacy. The balconies were separated by thin dividers which appeared to be easily removable for large parties requesting adjoining staterooms. There were guests in both of the surrounding staterooms to 7206 for the duration of our cruise. This obviously is through no direct fault of Royal’s, but every single time we returned to our stateroom, one of our neighboring stateroom guests would peek around the balcony divider and invite themselves into our private conversations or simply look through our balcony door windows to see what we were up to. It got to the point where we had to be mindful of when we left our balcony door curtains open, and it was almost impossible to have privacy of any kind while sitting out on our balcony. We have never had issues like this in the past with guests of surrounding staterooms, but it certainly wasn’t something Royal could personally control. The only thing Royal could do to minimize situations like this would be to affix larger more permanent balcony dividers between each of the staterooms.
If it’s activities you’re looking for, 3,7, or 10 days, we promise – you’ll never get bored on a Royal Caribbean Oasis Class Ship. Our seven day itinerary included two back-to-back sea days right at the start. We especially like sea days onboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines because of all the amazing activities. Sea days are our favorite time to explore all the amazing areas onboard. outdoor spaces, indoor spaces, food and fun – there’s so much to do at sea with Royal Caribbean!
With both indoor and outdoor theaters, an ice skating rink, carousel, zip line, not one but two rock walls, two surf simulators, a shopping area filled with Starbucks, Michael Kors, & Kate Spade storefronts, three main dining rooms, and over 20+ specialty and complimentary restaurants, this floating city of the seas has EVERYTHING we, and our fellow passengers (… yes, there were over 6,400 of us onboard), could ever need. While onboard, we literally did ALL THE THINGS:
- rock climbed,
- complimentary dined,
- specialty dined,
- ice skated,
- relaxed in hot tubs and on our balcony,
- swam in the solarium and four feature pools,
- saw the most amazing high flying and deep diving live performances and stage shows,
- played basketball, table tennis, mini golf, bingo, and trivia
ate Japanese, Italian, Brazilian, Mexican, American, and a whole lot of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream,
- rode the carousel and a surf board,
- shopped at Michael Kors, Coach, and Kate Spade,
- watched the sunset over the Caribbean nightly,
- had a massage, facial, and body scrub at the spa;
- and took a stroll through our favorite neighborhood, Central Park
That’s right, we did all of the above on a cruise ship! The best part of a Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines cruise (besides basically traveling on a floating city at sea) is that you can do everything above and more, or nothing at all without ever stepping foot off the ship.
If you asked us what we loved most about Allure of the Seas, it would hands down be the amount of outdoor spaces that truly became our own personal oasis at sea during our time onboard. From the Boardwalk to the Pool Deck and everything in between, there are so many opportunities to get outside while onboard Allure of the Seas! We started every morning walking the floating garden that is Central Park surrounded by 13,000+ individual plants, and we ended every night with a show in the outdoor Aqua Theater – home to the deepest pool at sea. With our room located on Deck 7, we were conveniently separated by only one deck from Central Park which is located on Deck 8. Since most of our dinners were in the Central Park area, and we enjoyed walking this area so much, it was a major perk having our room so close.
If R&R is more your speed, there are plenty of family-friendly and adults-only areas to do just that. We love being active on vacation, but of course there were also days when we wanted to lounge pool side with a few cocktails in hand to enjoy the onboard entertainment, like Royal’s “Sexiest Man Alive Competition.” With over twenty pools onboard, there is always a spot where cruisers can grab a sun lounger, take a dip, and catch a few rays. When we were planning our cruise with Royal, we knew we wanted a ship with plenty of pools and adults-only areas, and Allure of the Seas offered exactly what we were looking for!
The Solarium onboard Allure is the perfect spot to spend an afternoon. This otherwise windy area of the ship is peaceful and serene thanks to its surrounding glass semi-enclosure. The Solarium is not unique to Allure of the Seas. There are also other Royal Caribbean ships that offer a Solarium onboard as well. Although the glass roof is not fully enclosed and it does not retract as it does on some of Royal’s other ships (how cool, right?), this front facing adults-only sanctuary offers some of the best views at sea.
Sea days also make great spa days. We spent most of our second sea day being pampered with couples massages, facials, hand and feet treatments, and all things relaxation in the Vitality at Sea Spa located on Deck 5. There were also a few mornings where we began our day in the fitness center or on the outdoor track, also located in the Vitality at Sea Spa.
Travel Note: We really enjoyed our spa treatments, but in all honesty – we’re not fans of Royal’s up-selling on additional services in the spa. We’ve experienced a lot of spas, on both land and at sea, and we’ve never experienced therapists who immediately went from 0-60 into sales pitch, after sales pitch post-treatment. This was a major mood killer for us.
We shared photos and videos throughout our cruise via social media thanks to the fastest internet at sea, Royal Caribbean’s ZOOM internet service. This internet service was no joke! It truly was unlike any other internet service we’ve ever experienced onboard a cruise ship. This is something we’ve never been able to do on a previous cruise. With Carnival and Disney Cruise Lines, we found the paid internet services to be extremely lacking and hardly able to maintain a connection. However, this was a completely different story with Royal Caribbean and Allure of the Seas. We had no issues staying connected to our family, friends, and even working remotely while we were onboard or in port.
After a few fantastic sea days at the beginning of our cruise, we had the most amazing day exploring both Saint-Martin and Sint Maarten with our first port of call on Day 4 of our cruise with Allure of the Seas. This was the port we were most looking forward to. From the luxurious resorts and chic secluded French beaches to the bustling Dutch capital of Philipsburg and one of the most dangerous airport runways in the word, it was a day we will never ever ever forget. That’s right, we visited not one but two beautiful countries in one day while in port.
Next, it was time for our second port of call – San Juan, Puerto Rico on Day 5 of our cruise with Allure of the Seas. After arriving in San Juan and walking from port to Paseo del Morro and then on to Playa Escambron, we stumbled upon Playa Peña where sand meets sea glass, and we found the ruins of the Old Aguadilla Lighthouse. During our time in port, we visited not one but two UNESCO World Heritage Sites/ US National Parks while in San Juan: Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro. Puerto Rico seriously has it all – beautiful beaches, endless adventure, and history can easily be found around every corner of Old San Juan. Puerto Rico was simply stunning, and with an all-aboard time of 12:00 p.m., our time in port simply wasn’t enough.
Originally, our cruise itinerary allowed for a full day in Puerto Rico. However, an issue with Allure of the Seas propulsion system required that we cut our visit in Puerto Rico short in order to make it to our next destination on time. This was something Royal Caribbean notified us about prior to sailing via e-mail. It wasn’t a major disappointment as it allowed for more time onboard exploring all that Allure of the Seas had to offer. In addition, it gives us a reason to head back to Puerto Rico in the future to explore more that this charming island has to offer.
For our third port of call, we arrived in Labadee, Haiti on Day 6 of our cruise. In all honesty, Haiti was not somewhere that was at the top of our bucket list when it came to cruise ports. In fact, we weren’t even half as excited about visiting Haiti as we were some of the other ports on our cruise itinerary. However, all of that changed as soon as we pulled into port that morning. The Haitian landscape simply took our breath away as we enjoyed the views from our Oceanview balcony.
Although we had incredible weather for our entire cruise which was surprising during hurricane season, our day in Labadee was filled with the absolute best weather from sunrise to sunset. The sky was a perfect shade of blue, the landscape of Haiti was a lush green, the surrounding waters were the perfect shade of turquoise, and there was a slight breeze near port. However, we did have to breakdown and purchase waterproof sunscreen and SPF lip balm at the gift shop near port as we had ran out the previous day.
Labadee is a cruise port located on the northern coast of Haiti. Although many refer to Labadee as Royal’s private ‘island’, Labadee is no island at all. In actuality, it is a peninsula. Royal Caribbean leases 250+ acres of beautiful waterfront area, known as “Labadee” from the Haitian Government. Royal has leased this land since 1986. The beaches and surrounding areas are closed off from the rest of the Country, and cruisers are not permitted to leave the private area.
The area consists of beautiful beaches adjacent to the port area. Cruisers can access the beaches by hitching a ride on the complimentary tram or on foot. The smooth, calm, and warm waters of Labadee’s beaches were exactly what we were looking for after several days of non-stop exploring both on land and at sea. After all, you can only stare at the ocean for so long and not want to jump in it, am I right?
There is also a small shopping area with several different shops and local vendor stands. We did purchase souvenirs in the gift shop near the beach, and as I said above – we also purchased sunscreen and lip balm at the gift shop near the port. However, we walked a few feet into the local vendor stands and turned right back around. The aggressive nature of these vendors was something that has turned us off when visiting other destinations in the past such as Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Nassau, Bahamas, and Negril, Jamaica. Our biggest issue with this style of salesmanship is that the vendors do not even provide you with the opportunity to look at the merchandise at your own leisure. This was a major turn off for us, and sooner than we walked in – we walked out. We do recommend you shop at the gift shops near the port or beach if you’re looking for souvenirs, but please be prepared if you do decide to patronize the local vendor stands near the private cabanas.
Our very first ever cruise with Royal Caribbean International onboard Allure of the Seas was beyond incredible. We often refer to this cruise as one of our best vacations to date. We both agree that it is firmly in our Top 5 Trips Taken. Allure of the Seas offered everything we were looking for, a good mix of activity and relaxation, fantastic food, and the ports of call were fantastic. Although we consider our activity level on this cruise a pretty active one in that we made it to the gym or ran on the track each day and also managed to see and do so many things both onboard and in port, we still managed to arrive home feeling so relaxed.
We’re so glad we finally decided to take a chance on Allure of the Seas and Royal Caribbean, and we’re are kicking ourselves that it took us so long! We will absolutely be cruising again on Allure of the Seas in the future, and we can’t wait to try another of Royal Caribbean’s ships on our next cruise!
Have you ever cruised or are you planning to cruise with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines? If you have, tell us your tips and tricks in the comments below to help us plan our next cruise with Royal!
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