As my friend Just and I lined up with thousands of other eager tourists to board the Allure of the Seas cruise ship, we honestly had no idea what we were in store for. We had never been on a cruise ship. Hell, I’d never even been near the Caribbean. What we did know was that this was going to be a week full of adventure.
The Allure of the Seas is one of the biggest ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet. How big? It holds over 6000 passengers at a time, has four swimming pools and multiple hot tubs, a rock climbing wall, two artificial surf waves, a zip-line, a casino and multiple nightclubs.
Where was the Allure of the Seas cruise going? We left from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and cruised out to St. Maarten, Puerto Rico and Haiti, spending a day at each location and a few days cruising on the ocean.
Here is a GoPro video of the highlights from our week with Royal Caribbean.
On board the Allure of the Seas with Royal Caribbean
Rookies – We spent the first 24 hours figuring out what the hell was going on. We had a drinks package but had no idea this meant we could get pretty much any type of drink. At first, we thought we would get a free cocktail here and there. However, it actually meant free coffee, blended juices, smoothies and red bulls. To be honest, Just and I spent the first day wandering around like cruise rookies as the more experienced passengers had settled into the swing of things before we had even unpacked. We stumbled our way to the dining room to find a buffet with pretty much everything you can think of, available almost all day, every day included in your ticket. Heaven.
The abode – Our room was on the 16th floor on the Allure of the Seas ship and had a balcony overlooking the ocean. I can’t begin to count how many times we both stepped out onto the balcony and said, “Hey you gotta come see how blue the water is, it’s not real.” And I still can’t believe how blue it was in the Caribbean as we got far out to sea.
No longer rookies – After our initial learning period, we began to find our rhythm on the ship. We woke early to attack the gym, which was adorned with amazing facilities. I usually work out on hotel room floors, trees, and broken fences as I travel, so I felt like I was in the lap of luxury as I spotted a row of fifteen or so treadmills looking out over the ocean. I didn’t want to run, it just looked cool.
The packages – Our package was included on our trip thanks to Royal Caribbean. However, it’s worth noting that not everything comes included with your ticket. While you do get access to the buffet and other restaurants around the ship, special drinks packages and alcoholic drinks package do cost extra as you could imagine. Also, the wifi on board was on fire, super quick and actually the quickest wifi you can get on a cruise ship apparently. It costs just over $10 a day for connection. Other than that your good to go on the ship, you won’t find any other surprise costs unless you choose to dine at the specialty, upmarket restaurants. These were great to try but not necessary if you don’t want to spend extra. The only other cost to consider is the shore excursions. When you dock you have about 6-10 hours to explore the location. Most people on board have purchased some type of tour depending on their interest. For example in St. Maarten you could go on a guided tour, kayaking or sailing and those were only the activities I saw. Plenty of people don’t take a tour and we saw them along the way looking like they were having a blast also.
Allure of the Seas – Royal Caribbean shore excursions
Hanging out on our big adventure playground of a ship was a blast but for us, the highlight was definitely exploring the destinations. Each shore excursion was entirely different and we came back to the ship each night on a natural high.
I had quite a bit of trouble figuring out exactly what country we were arriving at. It is part of the kingdom of the Netherlands but the French also own part of the Island. The distinct differences can be seen through the architecture and food in the two different sides of the island.
Our shore excursion was a catamaran cruise to Divi Little Bay to snorkel and then further along the coast on a scenic cruise. Divi Little Bay has thousands of wrecks on the seafloor due to a crazy storm. There are also helicopters and planes on resting at the bottom of the ocean. I’ve snorkeled with manta rays in the Nusa Islands of Indonesia and Whale Sharks while backpacking in Philippines and this was an experience right up there with those. The beauty of this spot was that the planes and helicopters were only 15-20 feet below the surface so it was easy enough to free-dive down to check out the sunken vehicles.
Our captain was chill enough to let us jump from his roof for a while until he finally had enough and had to keep the tour moving. We cruised along the coast checking out the homes and hotels while relaxing on the nets at the front of the boat.
It was time to return to the dock but it wasn’t time to board the Allure of the Seas ship yet. Without wasting any time we jumped in a cab and drove to Maho Beach. This beach is world famous for its dangerous position right in front of an airport. The planes come dramatically close to beachgoers before touching down on the tarmac.
Planes taking off power up their jet engines, blowing people and their belongings into the ocean if they are unaware. Maho Beach was incredibly fun as there was always something going on with the planes. However, aside from all of the aviation, the beach itself was stunning with warm crystal clear water and beautiful sand. Many of the Allure of the Seas passengers who didn’t purchase a shore excursion came to Maho Beach to enjoy the spectacle and chill at the beach bar.
The Allure of the Seas docked in Puerto Rico early in the morning. We were straight onto a bus, navigating the highways towards El Yunque, a 28,000-acre rainforest. Everything about Puerto Rico reminded me of Oahu hike in Hawaii. One minute you were driving in a regular city before veering onto a highway with forest and greenery on either side. It wasn’t long before we were winding up the road between bamboo and a huge canopy of trees towards El Yunque.
We explored the waterfalls, pools and hidden areas of El Yunque for several hours before the rainforest lived up to its name. The rain started coming in hard and all of a sudden the forest transformed from a peaceful hideaway into a whole other beast. We laughed along as we ran back to the bus in the rain, everyone drenched but smiling ear to ear as we made our way back to San Juan where the ship was docked.
Now we had a couple of hours to explore Old San Juan. Cobblestone streets are lined with colorful, colonial style buildings in the oldest settlement of Puerto Rico. It reminded me of exploring Antigua while backpacking in Guatemala. We made our way through the streets marveling at the bright colors around each corner.
We had a brief encounter with an Iguana after the real life lizard hunters of Maui, a father and son duo on the trip with us managed to adopt an iguana for an hour much to the entertainment of the locals.
We had a quick look around of Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a historic fort built on the ocean edge. As the ship pulled out of the harbor we were lucky enough to get a second, much more aerial view of the fort from the top floor of the Allure of the Seas ship.
Labadee is a peninsula on the northern shore of Haiti, which is leased by Royal Caribbean. It is an adventure playground. Among the activities available are a zip line over the ocean, jet ski tours, snorkeling, kayaking, a water park, a roller coaster and parasailing.
We managed to squeeze in three of those in just one day. First up was the Dragon Breath Flight Line, which is a zip line touted as the longest ‘flight line’ over the ocean in the world. We managed to time our flight perfectly so that it felt as though we were surfing on a wave as we flew through the air.
Next, we headed over the Dragon’s Tail Coaster. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I usually have a pretty high bar for roller coasters and it takes a lot to get my adrenaline pumping. As we waited to take off in our little go-kart carriage I was expecting a mild whizz around the track. Fast-forward thirty seconds and Just and I were screaming and laughing. This was one of the loosest coasters I had been on. We decided against the brakes and flew around the track so fast we thought we were going to take-off on a few occasions. For something we weren’t sure about it fast became the highlight of our time on Labadee.
We spent the next few hours relaxing at a private cabana at Barefoot Beach Club. This is an area reserved for guests on the Allure of the Seas who are staying in Grand Suites or greater. Here we enjoyed a buffet lunch, drinks, and crystal clear water. This is a place you could chill at for a week and we lamented the fact we had to leave.
Before we boarded the ship we thought why not squeeze in one more activity. We quickly jumped aboard a little boat and headed out to hit the skies by parasailing. I had never been parasailing so it was an awesome experience for me and a great way to get a better view of Labadee. The water was so clear we could see every detail of the ocean floor in the shallows.
Ship life aboard the Allure of the Seas
With sunkissed skin, we rushed back aboard the ship. I think we might have been the last few passengers aboard. We now had a full day of cruising back to Florida. After our three days of adventure-packed action, we hung out with one of the families on the trip with us, the Aarons. We began with a session on the flow-rider, an artificial wave on the roof of the ship. Without pausing for breath we jumped on the short zip line before squeezing in a round of mini-golf. We discovered an ice-rink aboard the ship… I know, this ship has everything! After a quick skate, we finally slowed it down and spent the day hanging out at the pools and soaking up our last few hours of cruising.
*For a list of the best cruises that are wheelchair accessible check out this top ten disabled cruises blog post!
Is a cruise for you?
A cruise is definitely a unique way to travel and it was definitely easy. Everything is organized and there is no time wasted. It truly felt like a vacation. The part that surprised me the most was that you could make the trip whatever you liked. Many passengers aboard probably felt rejuvenated and relaxed as they departed the ship in Ft. Lauderdale. That’s because they enjoyed the drinks package by the pool, maybe a massage or a flutter at the casino. They woke up without an alarm and went to sleep after a couple of cocktails at the bar. For Just and I, it was sunrise photography sessions followed by the gym before an action packed day of activities and exploring. We felt like we could’ve done with another vacation to wind down after the crazy week of awesome adventures!