They say everything’s bigger in Texas. That now includes cruises.
Royal Caribbean has opened a brand-new cruise facility in Galveston, Texas, and it recently moved one of the world’s largest vessels to the port.
I headed to Royal Caribbean’s new $125 million, 160,000-square-foot facility to cruise on the massive ship. Allure of the Seas, which carries 6,700 passengers at maximum occupancy, once held the title of being the largest cruise ship in the world. (It sits in the fifth spot as I write this, though, as Royal Caribbean has continued to build ever-larger ships with its new launches in the years since Allure of the Seas first hit the oceans in 2010.)
On my hosted trip, Royal Caribbean was celebrating placing this vibrant vessel in its new homeport. I was joined by my friend Kevin, and this cruise was particularly interesting for me because I got to see a mass-market cruise on one of the big ships through the eyes of a newbie. You see, this was Kevin’s very first cruise. I, on the other hand, have been on more than 100 sailings.
Having his perspective was incredibly refreshing because I have found myself becoming a little set in my routine while on my voyages, taking much of the joy of cruising for granted.
For this trip, we dove into all that these big and feature-packed ships have to offer, revisiting a lot of the experiences that I probably wouldn’t have on my typical cruise these days. It was all exciting and new to Kevin, and it was a joy to see him marvel at discovering a new venue, activity, or design detail at every turn.
We definitely kept busy trying as much as we could during our 4 days onboard.
Here is what I rediscovered about cruising while sailing on Allure of the Seas.
1. You Have Food Choices Galore
The bigger cruise ships feature tons of spaces and activities. The idea is to ensure that a diverse group of passengers can always find something to do. The program will keep them entertained and well fed — two essentials on a good cruise vacation.
Allure of the Seas takes that concept and cranks it up to 11. First, the food.
The ship offers a gut-busting array of food options with its restaurants and eateries. Allure of the Seas offers a steakhouse (Chops Grille), Mexican eateries (Sabor and Loco Fresh), Italian (Giovanni’s), pizza (Sorrento’s), hot dogs (Boardwalk Dog House), cafeteria-style eateries (Cafe Promenade and Park Cafe), Brazilian (Samba Grill), sushi, sashimi, and hibachi (Izumi), tapas (Vintages wine bar), tasting menu dinners (150 Central Park), four main dining rooms, a diverse buffet, and a Johnny Rockets diner. And ice cream and doughnut shops.
Okay, so that covers the food and desserts. Most eateries are included in your cruise fare, and some are added-fee restaurants (more on those later). We were definitely well fed during our trip. Kevin and I booked specialty dining (added fee) at 150 Central Park and Giovanni’s.
Plus, we had a nice dinner with new friends at American Icon Grill and made frequent stops to pick up a slice of pizza at Sorrento’s or cookies and other treats at Cafe Promenade. We also enjoyed one fast-casual dinner of burgers, fries, onion rings, and shakes while sitting outside on the bustling boardwalk at Johnny Rockets.
2. There Is Something For Everyone
Allure of the Seas is loaded with a dizzying number of activities and entertainment options to fill up your daily schedule.
The daily program offers things like trivia competitions, a Puzzle Break (like an escape room experience), theater shows, a Battle of the Sexes game show, comedy acts, and a range of fun attractions around the ship, such as sports courts (for basketball, soccer, and pickleball), miniature golf, ziplining, surfing and wakeboarding, and rock climbing.
We joined a few trivia sessions and even won once to claim the highly sought-after prize of luggage tags. (I think having bragging rights is even more important to most cruisers.)
Amber Theater is the main show venue, and the headliner was Mamma Mia, the smash Broadway musical. We also made it to the ship’s dedicated comedy club, Comedy Live, to watch a pair of comedians at the late-night show.
Of course, there is always live music at the bars and lounges during the afternoons and evenings. The British pub, Bow and Stern, featured a guitar player, and the Royal Promenade had a country music trio. Live music also can be found at the pool decks (we had a DJ and a steel drum band) and at Central Park, Boleros (which features a salsa band), Dazzles, and the Schooner Bar (which has a piano singer), among others. There is also a dedicated jazz club, Jazz on 4.
We were able to sprinkle in only a few of these experiences on our sailing. But that’s the thing with these huge ships. The cruise lines aim to entice cruisers to come back again and again. The idea is that you’ll never be bored or run out of choices of fun things to keep you occupied.
3. You Can’t Do Everything
This was definitely the case on our cruise. We passed on plenty of stuff on the schedule but still found plenty to keep our schedules filled with great activities. We took a turn ziplining across the ship — soaring over the boardwalk from the very top of the ship — and we squared off for nine holes of mini golf. Kevin enjoys gambling a bit, so he was happy to learn that the ship has a huge casino. We spent a few sessions in front of the slot machines at Casino Royale, and he even won a little extra money by the end of the cruise.
The ship also has an ice skating rink! It’s in Studio B down on Deck 4, and passengers can enjoy open skating sessions. We didn’t skate, ourselves, but we went to the dynamic “Ice Games” skating show that features a cast playing out a storyline to upbeat pop music.
We also grabbed a seat at the large Aqua Theater located at the very back of the ship. This venue is at the end of the boardwalk and it is home to the OceanAria aqua show in the evenings. This show combines incredible acrobatics, dives from high platforms into the small pool, music, light, and comedic elements to create a high-energy spectacle under the stars.
As you can see, the ship has earned a reputation as an attraction itself, and many cruisers even choose to stay on board instead of visiting the ports during many of the port stops.
4. Allure Of The Seas Is Perfect For Friends And Family
This huge ship is ideal for multigenerational families as well as larger groups of people who want to get together for a getaway vacation or special occasion. With all of the restaurants and a daily program packed with all sorts of entertainment offerings and fun activities, people of all ages and interests can easily find something to do.
Grandparents will love this ship, for example, because they can take their grandkids on a cruise vacation without having to worry about not being able to keep the teens or children happy. Allure of the Seas features a complimentary Adventure Ocean program with specially trained counselors who take care of junior cruisers (segmenting them by age groups 3–5, 6–8, 9–12, and teens and tweens).
These young cruisers get their own programming and facilities, so they can hang out together, make new friends, play video games, participate in sports, and even eat together. The teens can hang out at The Living Room, Fuel Teen Club, and at an arcade to enjoy games, dance parties, and movie nights.
5. A Lot Is Included In Your Fare
Cruising is popular for many reasons, and one of the main benefits is that so much is included in the base fare.
The comedy shows, live music, and Mamma Mia, for example, all are included. You also get meals at most of the restaurants and some non-alcoholic drinks, like water, iced tea, juices, coffees, and teas. Also complimentary: the kids clubs and all of the fun activities (like the FlowRider surf simulator, zipline, and rock climbing) as well as the pool areas, loungers, and hot tubs.
The ship also has a massive fitness center featuring all the accessories and equipment you might expect at a high-end health club on land. It also has the best jogging track at sea, a half-mile, enclosed two-lane track on Deck 5 that encircles the ship. It’s covered to protect you from the sun, but it also has openings that bring in fresh air and views from the ocean.
6. Extras Can Add Up Quickly
Specialty dining comes with added costs, like cover charges or a la carte pricing. These premium restaurants on Allure of the Seas include Chops Grille, Sabor, Izumi, 150 Central Park, Giovanni’s Table, and Johnny Rockets. You also will pay extra for sodas and alcohol. The ship also has a Starbucks and ice cream shop that cost extra.
Allure of the Seas offers a nice spa and thermal suite, so you can treat yourself to massages and other treatments at an extra fee. Plus, there are a number of boutiques and other shops onboard selling souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, and more.
The casino, of course, can quickly drain your bank account, too, if you’re not careful. Shore excursions also cost north of $100 per person at most destinations.
Being one of the world’s largest cruise ships, Allure of the Seas allows cruisers a huge amount of flexibility to enjoy their vacations in any way they choose.