Grab a fruity drink and a snack because this post is gonna be a long one. We just got back from our spring break adventure on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and there is so much to share! As you may remember, we’re avid Disney cruise fans, with over 5 under our belts, so it’s pretty hard to convince us to try anything different. Then on Simon’s family reunion cruise (OMG when did we become cruise people???) over Thanksgiving on Royal Caribbean, we priced out a trip for spring break on one of the biggest, newest ships. And wow – to get one of the top-of-the-line stateroom suites, it was actually cheaper than a standard balcony room on the Disney cruise.
So our interest was piqued, and we pulled the trigger on it in early January after watching several YouTube videos, etc. And after everything, I think we may have been converted. Read on for more on the pro/cons of both.
Here’s where i I went into into greater detail about our stops in the US Virgin Islands and St Kitts.
- Day 1: Fort Lauderdale
- Day 2 : Nassau, Bahamas
- Day 3: At Sea
- Day 4: St Thomas
- Day 5: St Kitts/Nevis
- Day 6: At Sea
- Day 7: At Sea
- Day 8: Ft Lauderdale
THINGS TO DO
The Allure of the Seas is the second largest cruise ship in the world. With over 5400 guests on board, you have to have plenty to do to keep those people happy and occupied for 7 days of vacation. But they seem to make it effortless and despite the high number of guests, you won’t even notice how many people are vacationing with you (at least, not until you disembark on the last day in a cattle call with alllllllll the other people and their extended families). There’s 17 decks, TWO DOZEN restaurants, and seven “neighborhoods” on board — and we barely saw it all. Additionally there’s an Aqua Theater where divers fly high into the air before plunging into the waiting pools below (while the ship is moving!! #anxiety), an ice skating rink, a carousel, rock climbing walls, a casino, surfing on the Flow Rider, a full-size basketball court, 4 swimming pools, not to mention several hot tubs. And in the main promenade, you can shop at Coach, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, and a handful of high end jewelry and watch shops.
What’s especially interesting were all the distinct neighborhoods around the ship. The overall design of the vessel includes an open center that runs nearly the entire length of the ship, and subsequently allowing for double the amount of balcony staterooms (although you won’t have nearly the same amount of privacy – #fishinafishbowl). Our personal favorite neighborhood was Central Park which was surprisingly calm, with real trees growing all around. Several of the higher-end restaurants are also located there as well.
While Disney’s core customer is primarily families, the clientele for Royal Caribbean is much broader. You’ll get everyone from the partying 20 somethings to the 90 year old back-to-back cruisers. It’s definitely less about the kids and more about the adults. BUT it also depends on which ship you get. The ship we took over Thanksgiving was not very kid-friendly. It was like they’d never even seen a kid. And in that regard, Disney wins for kid-friendliness. The Disney customer service overall is substantially better and the entire staff is overall friendlier. BUT – the difference on the Allure of the Seas for us was the suite and concierge staff. More on this in a bit.
Royal Caribbean had a lower price point overall than Disney BUT be aware that there are many more places where they will upcharge you for things. Case in point: you’ll be charged $25 for every single pool towel that you don’t check back in at the end of the day. There are also many more upcharges for drink packages, etc. whereas on Disney it’s more of an all-inclusive feel. Obviously on both ships, you’ll pay an upcharge if you want to use the specialty restaurants. Royal Caribbean’s “free” restaurants weren’t as high quality as the basic Disney fare UNLESS you partake in the suite-only lounges and restaurants which were not an additional fee for those who have those categories of rooms. The food quality there was significantly better.
Our family of 4 (me, Simon, Jude, age 10, and Archer, age 3) spent most of the at-sea days pool-hopping, spa-ing, and exploring as many of the restaurants as possible. How fun was this kids’ pool area (below)? So colorful and happy.
Both our boys utilized the kids’ clubs and they weren’t that great in comparison to Disney. The staff didn’t seem quite so excited about all 1200 kids on board this particular week, and the facilities were fine, but just not as cool as the Disney ones. The other thing to note: nobody is allowed to wear swim diapers, so if your kid isn’t potty trained, you’re going to have a problem. The other thing to note is that in the kids’ club, anybody over age 3 is not allowed to wear diapers. They must be potty trained. Archer is halfway there, but they raised a stink about him wearing a diaper and made me take it off of him in order to leave him there while we went to a grown-ups-only dinner. They stated he was allowed to have two accidents before they would call us. This made zero sense to me. How about we leave the diaper on and have zero accidents, hmm? Overall, I was unimpressed there.
There were plenty of activities to keep all of us happy. Jude happily scuttled back and forth to the basketball court where he made tons of friends, and Archer loved riding the beautiful carousel (for free!) over and over again. There was also an outdoor play area, perfect for Archer and all the other littles his age.
ALL ABOUT THAT STATEROOM
Where Royal Caribbean blows Disney out of the water is the sheer variety of staterooms. Disney has inside and verandah rooms unless you want to spend ALLLLLLL the dollars and get a concierge room which significantly increases the price. Royal Caribbean offers way more options, and the pricing is considerably better.
The absolute best part of our trip was having an utterly jaw-dropping stateroom. Located on the 17th floor, we were in room 1742, the Royal Loft. Within this particular class of stateroom there are lots of different options depending on how many people you need to sleep, location on the ship, etc. But the Royal Loft is distinct as it features a two-story window with a panoramic view (some face the aft portion of the ship and others face out to sea like ours did), and 2 levels complete with kingsize bed upstairs, and 2 full bathrooms. The boys slept on the lower level on the sofa that converted into a bed and they also had their own full bathroom.
Our suite was also unique because it was a handicap-accessible room and thus, it had an elevator. YES – an actual elevator in the room. TIP: if you wait until the month or two before the ship is due to sail, you may be able to snag certain rooms like this one that haven’t been reserved yet. Our stateroom attendant told us that our particular room was highly coveted since it’s larger than the other Royal Lofts due to the elevator and sizing required to keep it ADA compliant. Plus it has the ocean view, which is better than staring down at the ship.
Suite guests get TONS of crazy good perks, and the service was impeccable. We had access to the Coastal Kitchen, a suite-guests-only restaurant that’s available all day long from breakfast to dinner, and all the free snacks, drinks, meals, etc. that your little heart desires. You also get priority boarding and disembarkation, and THAT was worth every last penny as the line to get off the ship on the last day was disheartening to say the least. The 2 suite concierges literally led the suite guests all in a line past everybody else to get straight to passport control. It was crazy. And suite guests also get priority disembarkation on port days – that means you get to leave the ship before everybody else once they lower the gangway so you can get just a little more time for your days exploring those lovely islands.
Our stateroom attendant was Carmen and she was AMAZING. She was so helpful and loving to the boys and was a wealth of knowledge on all things about the ship. Our room was a wreck on the regular (ahem, KIDS) but she was always there with a smile. There were plenty of other perks too, like a fruit basket on the first day, and delivery of other goodies (cheese platter, chocolates, etc.) on other sea days. It was the little touches that went a long way.
For a family of 4, it was SO NICE to not be squished together in a tiny stateroom, especially since Archer still naps every day. I happily spent several days laying out on the balcony while Arch napped (or snoozing myself). It really did make the entire trip spectacular.
Overall we loved how calm and relaxing it was in our loft. Other areas of the ship (particularly the pool zones and the staterooms immediately surrounding them) were so loud due to all the music and entertainment and we remarked numerous times that we were grateful for our corner away from the craziness.
Oh, and there was even a complimentary pair of binoculars for our use!
SO WHAT’S THE VERDICT?
I LOVE Disney for their customer service, high quality, and attention to detail. Plus their private island is one of my favorite things about them, and nobody beats Disney at creating magical moments for small kiddos. But the expense and the tiny staterooms leave me underwhelmed. Royal Caribbean totally won us over with the suites and Royal Loft suite. For our older kiddo, Royal Caribbean ticked all the boxes of fun and excitement. I think we may have been converted to Royal Caribbean for the longer haul.
Got questions on the Allure of the Seas? Leave those questions in the comments or on Instagram and I’ll answer them! And I hope to have my video tour of the stateroom up shortly too.