First adventure on the agenda, a cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class, Allure of the Seas. Leaving from Fort Lauderdale, and making stops in Haiti, Jamaica, and Mexico, this is the first cruise I have ever been on, and Ian’s first cruise in the last two decades. As we are more or less based out of Colorado, we flew out to Fort Lauderdale the day before our cruise embarkation day, and stayed in a local hotel. It so happened, that Ian’s friend Tyler was on a twelve hour layover from Colorado to Morocco, so we all grabbed dinner, and Tyler crashed at our hotel until he had to catch his flight later that evening. We took the time to rearrange our luggage, making sure we had everything we might need for our first day aboard the ship in our carry-ons, and called it an early night.
In the morning, as we checked out of the hotel, we also booked our seats on a shuttle service through the hotel, which transports guests to port for departing cruises. When the shuttle van pulled up to the curb at port, we were able to drop our luggage off curbside with an attendant, and make our way into the cruise terminal. After we got our passports and boarding documents checked, we were funneled into a second line, in which we formally checked in, and received our SeaPass Card (credit card, and stateroom key on board), as well as our wifi passcode, and Day One Cruise Compass (list of times and locations for activities all around the ship). Once we had our SeaPass cards, we moved past the check-in desk, and made our way up the stairs and into a large waiting area with hundreds of other passengers, until it was time to embark. Though you might imagine a chaotic crowd of people, wandering around with their luggage, it was anything but. The cruise line staff directed us into a seating area, which was filled in by row, and as the embarkation process began, the crowd was signaled to board by section, and then row by row, making it simple and painless.
After our SeaPass cards were scanned, we made our way up a three story gangway, and finally entered the Allure of the Seas on Deck 5, the Royal Promenade, at noon. Filled with duty free shops (all closed while still in port), bars, clubs, and spectacular lighting and fountains, the Royal Promenade is the central shopping hub on board the Allure. Because of its centralized location, it was incredibly crowded as more passengers continued to board, so we chose instead to go up to decks 15 and 16. Deck 15 is the predominantly open-air deck, which is home to the pools, FlowRiders, sports court, and Solarium. At this point, we had taken a full circuit of the ship, and were ready for some lunch, so we headed up to Windjammer Marketplace. Windjammer is the main buffet onboard the Allure, and it occupies the aft section of Deck 16. Because we boarded at the earliest time, Windjammer was fairly empty when we seated, but was becoming more crowded as we finished our meal and were leaving. Though there were waits for tables the other times we came to dine at Windjammer, none of the waits exceeded fifteen minutes.
By the time we had finished eating, it was nearly 1pm, the time staterooms were to become available. So, we made our way back down to Deck 7, dropped our carry-ons off at the room, and changed into our swim suits to truly begin our vacation. Back up on Deck 15, we took in a round of mini golf at Allure Dunes, grabbed a couple of drinks from the Solarium Bar, and took a dip in the Solarium pool. Being the only pool area designated an age 16 and older area, the Solarium was one of the most relaxing and quietest spaces on the ship, second only to the library. With the time pushing 4pm, we dragged ourselves from the comfort of the pool, and made our way to the Amber Theater for our mandatory guest assembly drill. Twenty minutes later, we were free to wander the ship again. After changing out of our swimwear, we took a walk around Central Park on Deck 8, and the Royal Promenade on Deck 5, before heading up to the viewing area at the very front of Deck 14, to watch as the ship pulled out of port, and finally set sail at sunset.
As the sun set, and Fort Lauderdale shrank behind us, we made our way down to American Icon Restaurant, for My Time Dining. We chose to sit at a communal table, and got to know a newlywed couple who rushed out after the entrees so they could make their reservation for Mamma Mia! The Smash Hit Musical!, a pair of middle aged sisters, and an older lady who was enjoying the cruise with her new Crown and Anchor Society, Diamond Plus perks. It was interesting to hear from someone who had been to so many destinations, on so many Royal Caribbean cruises over the years. Each night, the main dining menus are planned around a specific ingredient, and the first night was the Mojo menu. After an appetizer of Strawberry, Kiwi, and Pineapple medley, Watermelon and Raspberry soup, and three servings of delicious bread, Ian ordered the prime rib and baked potatoes, I ordered the grilled chicken and vegetables, and we finished the meal off with the New York cheesecake and apple pie a la mode.
Content with our stomachs full, we spent another hour or two wandering the ship, and taking pictures. At night, Central Park glowed with beautiful pieces of artwork, and entrancing lighting displays; the sounds of crickets chirping, and the scent of nighttime flowers filled the air. Solo guitarists, or quartets of musicians played in a dimly lit alcove of Central Park almost every night, and you could pick up a drink from the nearby Trellis Bar, lounge around listening to them play, and gaze around at the wonder of a garden on the open seas for hours.
After a long day of taking in the sights and sounds of a veritable city at sea, and in preparation for an early morning FlowRider appointment, we wound our way back through the ship to our stateroom. Arriving back at the room, we found the Day 2 Cruise Compass waiting for us on the bed, and skimmed through it to see what interesting activities awaited us in the morning. We unpacked quickly and tucked our luggage away, showered, and prepared ourselves for another day of discovery on the Allure of the Seas.