Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Review
I have been completely obsessed with Disney vacation destinations for years. With Disney travel we’ve had unforgettable experiences, delicious dining, comfortable accommodations, and outstanding service. So when friends asked us to step out of our Disney comfort zone and take a Royal Caribbean cruise, I was skeptical. I was unsure if a Royal Caribbean voyage would be as amazing as a Disney Cruise. But with my children getting older, we decided to give it a try.
We booked ourselves on the Allure of the Seas in April 2016 on the Western Caribbean itinerary.
I, of course, immediately started doing research on the ship, activities, and ports of call. The Allure is in Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-Class, making it one of the largest ships in their fleet. There are 7 “neighborhoods” on board, including Central Park, Boardwalk, Royal Promenade, Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Seas Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place, and Youth Zone. These “neighborhoods” and 2,700 staterooms expand over 16 decks. The size of this ship is extraordinary!
At first I wondered why our itinerary had so many days at sea. I quickly discovered that it’s because the ship is a destination all in itself! There are activities for every member of the family.
My teenage boys enjoyed zip lining, rock climbing, ice skating (yes, there is a skating rink!), mini-golf, soccer, and two FlowRider surf simulators throughout the 7-night cruise. They were constantly on the go! The adults in our group had plenty of entertainment, too. We loved relaxing to the steel drum band while poolside, visiting the adults-only solarium, and exercising on the walking track that seems to never end. While my husband had his fun in the Casino Royale, I got my fill of character interaction with the DreamWorks Experience (I’m a big kid at heart!). There was a DreamWorks parade, shows, and meet-and-greets throughout the week. I may have been the only mom (without children) attending the events!
I was worried that the shows would not measure up to the productions on Disney Cruise Line,
but I was wrong! While evening productions were not as across-the-board kid-friendly as they are on the Disney Cruise Line, there are still plenty of shows for all ages. My kids especially loved the Aqua Theater show with high divers and acrobats. Other family favorites included an awesome ice-skating show and a brilliant a capella group. There were also Broadway quality stage shows and comedians geared towards adults. Overall, the entertainment was outstanding!
While I missed the rotational dining that Disney Cruise Line provides, Royal Caribbean dining was undeniably fantastic. We ate together with family and friends in the main dining room for most of our dinners. The service was exceptional. The waitstaff performed tricks, created origami, and entertained our children. Every night was a different themed menu with plenty of variety. In addition to the main dining room (included in your cruise fare), there were tons of signature restaurants throughout the ship available for an upcharge. My husband and I had a decadent six-course meal at 150 Central Park one evening while our friends visited Chops Steakhouse. (The children were quite happy eating at the buffet!)
Our cruise had a Western Caribbean itinerary with ports of call starting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In Mexico, we did an amazing dolphin interaction excursion. In Jamaica, we climbed to the top of Dunn’s River Falls and then tubed down the river. In Haiti, we took a catamaran snorkeling trip and then headed over to explore Royal Caribbean’s private beach. This was truly the only major disappointment of the trip, as there was simply no comparison to Castaway Cay (Disney's private island). Royal Caribbean's Haitian beach did not seem as safe, clean, or organized as Castaway Cay. Overall, though, there was an impressive selection of memorable excursions to choose from!
While Royal Caribbean lacks in the private island department and doesn't quite deliver the same "magic" as Disney does, it beats Disney Cruise Line hands-down in one important way: price. Royal Caribbean is much more economical. On the Allure of the Seas, we had TWO comfortable staterooms and cruised for 7 nights for half of what we paid for ONE stateroom for 5 nights on Disney Cruise Line. I thought this cruise was a great value. The activities, entertainment, dining, and excursions were perfect for the families we were traveling with (all with older children). It was a completely different experience for my Disney loving family. I would do it again in a minute and I highly recommend Royal Caribbean to families with older kids that may be ready to venture outside the Disney bubble and try something new.
Have questions for me about my Royal Caribbean voyage or about any travel destination? E-mail me (April) at firstname.lastname@example.org!