Allure of the Seas Offers a Winter Road Trip Alternative and a Huge Wow Factor

Our guest post comes from Marcia Levin, Past President, Society of American Travel Writers. Marcia specializes in writing about the Caribbean, Cruising, and Florida:

The “wow” factor on Allure of the Seas is absolutely amazing.

photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd

“Wow” is actually one of the most simplistic phrases used to describe the beautiful, huge vessel. At 225,282 gross registered tons and 1,187 feet long, she is the largest (Allure is five millimeters, or two inches, longer than Oasis of the Seas.)  Consider adjectives like awesome, beautiful, unbelievable, magnificent and, by the way, alluring. The “Today” show with Hoda Ktob and Kathie Lee Gifford taped from the vessel in Port Everglades on the day of its first sailing, and Oprah Winfrey gifted her audience with “one of her favorite things,” seven-day cruises on the new ship the same day.

Good press coverage? You betcha! But in this case the ship is certainly worth noting. It offers stunning décor, large public areas and a mix of design and technology geared to offer a great cruise for families, singles, seniors or anyone looking for an outstanding cruise vacation.

Allure of the Seas, the almost-twin of last year’s Oasis of the Seas, is simply wonderful.

Get on Board

And it seems the brand new 5,400-passenger ship is filling up fast.

Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD, said, during the weekend inaugural, the ships have been “a staggering success” and added bookings on Allure are just a bit ahead of bookings at this stage on Oasis and expects to end the year with bookings high on both ships. He explained the shipyard in Turku, Finland had the ship “so well completed” that the crew had more time to acclimate on the crossing to Port Everglades. The staff – officers and crew – make their work seem effortless, he added, and commended their attitude.

Innovation has long been Fain’s thing.

He’s introduced a rock climbing wall, ice rink, the flow rider, Zip Line and cabins overlooking the Promenade Deck; multiple dining venues (consider 26 on Allure); outdoor Aqua Theaters on the two big ships, and huge dedicated areas for children from infants to older teens. We have also seen Johnny Rocket’s, cupcake stores, carousels, beach pools and more.

And you can’t blink, because there’s always more.

Brand spanking new on Allure is an elegant Romero Britto Gallery and shop in Central Park, a Starbucks on the Royal Promenade and a hot dog stand on the Boardwalk.

Dream(Works) On

On Allure, Fain also introduced collaboration with DreamWorks. He said the collaboration is “extraordinary, more than I hoped for and I’ve never been one to have small hopes.”

The two companies – DreamWorks and Royal Caribbean – have much in common, Fain explains, “family audiences and irreverent humor.”

photo courtesy of Marcia Levin

DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said “Royal Caribbean is an exceptional product from my point of view. . .it is as good as it gets” and explained that he and Fain had been working on the partnership for more than 15 months after a mutual friend introduced them. Twenty-five DreamWorks characters now live aboard the ship.  Characters from Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon are on board and take part in a most enjoyable parade during each seven-day cruise. The characters are also available for photo ops and a character breakfast. Since actors can only wear the costume for 20-minutes at a time, carefully selected storage areas had to be devised so that characters can comfortably make their way to whatever destination they are scheduled for.

By the Numbers

Back to that numbers game, with Allure brandishing an extra two millimeters of space, the ship also boasts 24 guest elevators and never does one feel the sheer size of the vessel.

The ship houses a multi-million dollar art collection exhibited all over the sprawling vessel. The collection has been dubbed “Cultures of the World” and features 7,000 works of specially commissioned art including sculpture, paintings, collages, and more in every imaginable media. More than 110,000 lbs of ice cubes are made daily, the ship was built of 500,000 individual parts, and carries 150 miles of piping and 4.7 million lbs. of fresh water are consumed each day.

Raimund H. Gschaider, Allure’s hotel director, has been with Royal Caribbean for 28 years. He has brought out the last half-dozen ships and said of inaugurating the new vessels, “it is far more complex an experience. We very carefully choreograph” all aspects of the ship “and coordinate all the great thought processes behind creating it.” Technology on the new ship is state-of-the-art with touch screen interactive maps designed to help negotiate the vessel, kiosks on which passengers can check their bills or print boarding passes, and signs indicating availabilities in the ship’s eateries. Passengers’ cards are scanned to insure attendance at compulsory boat drills.

Gschaider’s  job description, along with a crew averaging about 2,300 from more than 70 nations, is “to make it all work.”

Gschaider said he begins his day by “walking” the ship before catching up with the captain.

Dinner and a Show

Specialty restaurants (which carry a surcharge) include 150 Central Park, Chef’s Table, Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table, Izumi Asian Cuisine, Rita’s Cantina, and Samba Grill Brazilian Steakhouse. The huge spa offers a Solarium Bistro dining area with calorie-controlled portions and is open for breakfast and lunch. Park Café and indoor/outdoor deli, the large Windjammer Marketplace, Adagio Main Dining Room and other venues involve no surcharge.

photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd

The area for which Peter Compton, vice president of Entertainment, is responsible includes the ice rink and ice show How to Train Your Dragon; OceanAria, the aqua show; the magnificent Amber theater productions of Chicago and Blue Planet. Individual production crews work with costuming, set design, actors, acrobats and swimmer and divers, choreography and music all the myriad details involved  in putting entertainment together. “There have never been better resources than you have seen here,” Compton said.

Royal Caribbean has also introduced 90-minute Broadway musicals on Oasis and Allure. Hairspray is on Oasis. Allure is featuring Chicago with a professional cast from London’s West End and Broadway productions.  Chicago is still appearing on stage in London and in New York City.

Song of Norway, the line’s first ship, debuted in 1980 and was geared to sailing a Caribbean itinerary. In 2011 Royal Caribbean will have the largest fleet – 11 ships – in Europe, including Liberty of the Seas. Liberty, Freedom and Oasis of the Seas will soon undergo rehab to place many of the new programs aboard.

The fleet totals 22 vessels.