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harryfat1

Cheapo dad’s trip report on Allure of the Seas sailing December 14, 2014

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Greetings! This is my trip report from our family’s vacation on the Allure of the Seas cruise to the Western Caribbean on December 14 – 21, 2014. I call it a trip report instead of a review because in my opinion I am not qualified to do a professional review. This is just a summary of what our family experienced during our vacation time.

 

Keep in mind when I say “trip” report and not “cruise” report. Meaning you will be taken along for a ride for the entire trip process, not just the cruise portion. It’s the mailmen version of the vacation report, stopping off at each and every point, no matter how minor, I will talk about it. So skip sections that don’t interest you.

 

Background – We are an extended family of 6 on this cruise. My wife, 2 boys, me and my in-laws. We live in California so we had to fly across the country for this cruise. My wife and I are both CPA’s (aka bean counters) so I will probably have more numbers related discussion than most people care to read. Just skip those sections when I digress and go off on a tangent to discuss numbers.

 

We have all cruised previously (see my cruise history below). Even my youngest at age of 11, this is his 8th cruise so we know the drill (as in muster – haha). Yeah, whatever. Don’t quit your daytime job

 

Why this cruise? The obvious answer is the ship. Oasis/Allure are special ships that provide things not found anywhere else. We typically cruise based on a region (e.g. Alaska) and then pick the best value ship/itinerary. However, for this cruise, we wanted either Oasis or Allure (didn’t have preference at the time of booking 12 plus months ago. We knew we wanted western Caribbean (we did eastern last time) and Allure just happened to be sailing on the west that week so the decision was made for us. However, now with hindsight, given the Oasis’ dry dock changes, I was happy to be on the Allure before she undergoes drydock herself.

 

Since day 1, Oasis/Allure have always had the “wow” factor to attract various cruisers from all over the world and as such, there was always a premium price associated when you try to book a cruise on them. Only now with Quantum and Anthem of the Seas coming out, the focus as shifted on those two and you start to see the price dropping a little for Oasis/Allure and value cruisers like myself are starting to come on board.

Short attention span/Reading trip reports during work: Given I am a CPA, one would think I can focus intensely on various items. But when it comes to reading other cruise reports online, I have the worst case of ADHD.

 

Here is my typical reading of one page of the review (20 posts):

 

Blah, blah, blah (yeah, yeah, whatever, don’t know and don’t care, scroll down the page)

 

Blah, blah, blah (wow, nice picture. Wish I was on vacation now instead of being at work. Mentally Photoshop my face onto the picture and imagine myself was at the beach/ship)

 

Blah, blah, blah (yeah, yeah, whatever, don’t know and don’t care, scroll down the page)

 

Blah, blah, blah (hey, nice swim suit)

 

Blah, blah, blah (yeah, yeah, whatever, don’t know and don’t care, scroll down the page)

 

Blah, blah, blah (hey, nice picture. Make a mental note to steal, err, I mean, be artistically inspired by this picture as to take a similar one on my vacation in standing at the same spot)

 

 

DING! End of page 45 seconds later. Minimize the web browser and go back to work. Rinse and repeat later on.

 

Having said that, here is some sample pictures from the cruise as to keep the ADHD in us occupied. I will try to put in as many pictures as possible as the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words (maybe 5,000 words for the people who reads this from work) but there will be occasions where I need to explain the background of the pictures or else the in of itself makes no sense.

 

Hope the picture link works. This is my first time using Flickr as attachment for trip report so bear with me as I try this. Here are some sample pictures of what we saw during the week:

 

Blah, blah, blah (yeah, whatever. Hurry up and show the pictures already. Time to scroll down)

 

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Why even write a cruise report? I debated whether to even start this post. There have been numerous masterpiece cruise reports out there by legends on the boards who are better writers/better photographers than I will ever be. Why even bother to spend the time and effort to do this when it’s been done better many times previously?

 

Then I thought about my opening paragraph thesis that this is just a re-telling of our vacation experience and maybe some other family might benefit from our experience. To me, a cruise itself is the ultimate buffet-like vacation. Just like a buffet, a cruise vacation has so many varieties of options to choose from that no 2 unrelated families will have the exact cruise experience when they disembark after 7 days from the same cruise. So maybe after reading our myriad of activities for the cruise, it will serve as a guide for some other future cruisers that might find one or two things we did that is useful to them.

 

Also, since our cruise was during the December month, when the ship is decorated in holiday scenery, it adds a different element to the report. Finally, we cruised as a 3 generation family gathering. Especially during the December cruise, you see big family gatherings so if you are planning a family gathering on a future cruise, maybe this can be beneficial if you are thinking of doing a family holiday cruise down the road. Finally, as with all cruise critics reviews, I picked up many tips from previous cruisers that made our cruise a very enjoyable one so it’s only right to pay it forward to next sets of cruisers.

 

Cheapo dad/bad dad – So being an anal CPA (isn’t that redundant?), I track my expenditures carefully – which is a politically correct way of saying I am cheap. As such, I refuse to pay the premium price associated with the Christmas/New Year’s sailings. However, I prefer sailing during the December month as it has the holiday decorations and the atmosphere is just so much more festive during the short period the ships are decorated in the holiday theme.

 

The quick comparison of cost between our (pre-Christmas versus actual Christmas) sailing the following week for a family of 4, we save around $3,500 on cruise fares on alone (of course, your mileage will vary depending on your sailing). No way was I going to pay the extra $3,500 to RCI on top of my current price. So in order to be save money (did I mention I am cheap?) but still sail during the December holiday month, I pulled the boys out of school one week early (with homework and make ups to be done after they get home post vacation). Yes, I am a cheapo dad and bad dad as well.

 

Blah, blah, blah. Yeah, yeah, whatever. Hurry up and show the pictures already – the 45 seconds is almost up and we have to get back to work. Time to scroll down)

 

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Taking pictures – Has anyone ever wondered the psychology of taking pictures of various things during vacations (especially on a cruise)? We are certainly guilty of that ourselves in taking thousands of pictures every vacation. Stuff you would NEVER take pictures back home all of sudden becomes a “WOW – I must take a picture of this” come cruise time. For example, I would say every decent size town in America has a Starbucks somewhere. You would never think twice about taking a picture of one back home but on the cruise, everybody and their cousin takes a picture of this Starbucks in their trip reports.

 

One of my all-time favorite tour guides was a guy in Mazatlán who took us to Stone Island back in 2010 and during the entire tour, he would jokingly say “How about that – take a picture!” That became our family saying ever since. So everywhere we travel to – we always say have this in mind: “take a picture”.

 

Here is a sample conversation that might have happened once or twice:

 

“Hey, wow, check this out. Take a picture”

 

“WHY? It’s only dirt (substitute the subject “dirt” with anything else like toilet/shampoo/glass of water etc.) Don’t we have dirt at home? Why would we need to take a picture of dirt?”

 

“Because it is a cruise ship/vacation dirt that makes it special. Have you forgotten how much money we paid for this cruise/vacation? We want to take pictures of everything from this vacation for our photo collection and for cc folks. Besides, it doesn’t cost any money to take a picture like the old days of camera films.”

 

“Good point. You want me to be on the left or right side of the dirt?"

 

With that being said, here are some “dirt” items on the cruise:

 

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All kidding aside, I read one phrases about vacation photos which has become my motto – the most expensive picture on the vacation is the one that you didn’t take. Basically the thought is you have spent a lot of money/time/effort to get to wherever your vacation spots are and you don’t want to go home and think – dang, I should have taken a picture ZZZ while I was on vacation. Even if you can go back later on, at the extra cost, the lighting/mood/people will be different and you may never be able to recreate the exact same atmosphere so when in doubt, take the picture.

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Loving the review so far. Blah blah blah OH new photos!!

We're on Allure in August can't wait.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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Good report...and I saw you snapping pictures :D Blah, blah, blah...

Edited by Wilda

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More please.

Loving it!

Your pictures are awesome.:D

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Good report...and I saw you snapping pictures :D Blah, blah, blah...

 

Thanks. I think it was hard to miss us - 6 people all with cameras or camcorders wearing Hawaii shirts on day 1. Dave from our roll call spotted me right away when we were in line to get our sea pass.

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Love your style of writing! Loving the pictures. And thank you for the advice about taking pictures. I now have a comeback line for when my husband complains about the amount of pictures I am taking!

 

I leave on Thursday for my Sunday Allure sailing. This will hold me over nicely until then!

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What’s NOT in this report? As I said before, every family does their own thing on cruises so chances are what you want from your cruise won’t be included here. There were some areas we didn’t do on our cruise so if you are reading this for these specific areas, sorry to disappoint you. Maybe just scroll down and look at the pictures. Things not in this report:

 

1 - Specialty Dining. Ate all our dinners MDR as there are no extra charges there. Did I mention I am cheap?

 

2 – No drink packages/cupcakes. Did I mention I am cheap?

 

3 – No 18+ related topics. Since this was a family vacation, we opted out of performance of Chicago as it’s adult theme. Also no info on the solarium as kids under 16 are allowed to go there. This includes the Quest game so if you are looking for that here, you won’t find it.

 

4 – No exotic shore excursions. Other than the one tour in Cozumel, we didn’t do any other excursions. Didn’t spend any money to swim with “whatever” as those costs extra. Did I mention I am cheap?

 

5 – No spas or massages. Although in the prior Mariner cruise, there was a complimentary spa treatment from the TA as part of the package and on the exact same cruise, I won a raffle for a second spa treatment at the port talk so we had a back to back spa treatment. But this isn’t for me even if it’s free. It’s like giving a Vegan a free prime rib dinner and can’t figure out why they don’t like it. Too bad I couldn’t sell my spa package on eBay to get 50 cents on the dollar…

 

As you can see, all on all, a rather mundane family cruise vacation.

 

Also don’t look for any speedy read through of what we did in 3 posts. That’s not my writing style. You have a writing style – really? Don’t quit your daytime job. If I could make a long story longer and longer, I would.

 

So what’s in this report? Now that I have discussed what I won’t cover in my trip report, here is what I hope to cover in the upcoming days. There’s an old saying – treat others the way you would want to be treated yourself. Having that as my daily motto, I will also encompass that feeling in this report. What do I mean by that?

 

Being anal, when I read various reports posted by others on cruise critics, I find myself engrossed in reports that are detailed oriented and of course, lots of enclosed pictures helps. So I will try to write with as much detail as I can remember (getting old and with many brain cells dying daily/post-holiday blues doesn’t help).

 

Depending on my energy level/enthusiasm throughout the report, I will add in various money and math discussions (part of the occupational hazard). Most likely I will lose all of the 5 people reading this report by then as I plan to have an analysis of Allure windjammer seat capacity percentage versus the Freedom class ships’ percentages. Stuff that 99.9999% of the people on vacation couldn’t care less about but I find it interesting and since it’s my trip report, it will probably make its way in here somehow.

 

Blah, blah, blah. Yeah, yeah, whatever. Time to scroll down. We have to get back to work you know.

 

Here is the dive sequence as seen from the not so secret balcony. The second picture is kind of hard to see as the diver is in the shadows but if you look closely, you will spot him. And yes, I will try to add an extra line between pics.

 

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Love your style of writing! Loving the pictures. And thank you for the advice about taking pictures. I now have a comeback line for when my husband complains about the amount of pictures I am taking!

 

I leave on Thursday for my Sunday Allure sailing. This will hold me over nicely until then!

 

Have a wonderful cruise. Hope you enjoy the ship as much as we did. I will try to go as far as I can by Thursday so you can see what we did.

 

Yes, take pictures by all means. After the cruise is over, all you have left are photo memories so take as many as you can.

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Great pictures! What camera did you use?

 

Thanks for the kind words.

 

Actually, we used more than one camera. Historically, my wife is the photographer of the family during vacation as I video tape (I must be old, do kids nowadays even use the word - video tape – as there are no tapes anymore?) But the last few vacations, my younger one (now 11) started to take over camcorder duty as he likes to talk into the camera in describing the scenery (the YouTube generation). So that frees me up to take pictures.

 

My wife has the better equipment as she is the family photographer in using the Canon T5i. I use two hand me down cameras from her – the old Canon Rebel XTi that I am almost embarrassed to talk about it as it’s 7+ years old but it still works well and when matched up with a faster lens, it still delivers decent night pictures. The dive sequences posted earlier are from that camera. In theory I should upgrade that camera as well but I hate to throw away working technology products. Besides, did I mention I am cheap?

 

The other hand me down camera from the wife is the Canon SX30 that is 4 years old. Decent bridge camera, the pictures are soft and not as sharp but I like it for the 35X zoom capability. The butterfly shot is from the zoom.

 

Also, I have a Panasonic TS-20, that’s the underwater camera we used for the beach. Good point and shoot to just strap around neck and go into the water/beach/sand with no worries whatsoever. Just come back and rinse it off.

 

Finally, my older son has iPhone and an even older 7 MP Panasonic camera that cheapo dad should buy a new one for him but he likes the way it handles.

 

As discussed above, my younger one uses the camcorder so whenever we hit a photographic spot, it’s as if we are on assignment from the Travel Channel with all the electronic gears in action.

 

My night time routine every night is finding enough charging spots in the cabins to charge up all the batteries.

 

See what I mean about making a long story longer? Bet you are sorry you asked…

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Pre-planning – I know some people don’t like to pre-plan their cruises but I do. For sure, the Allure/Oasis, it’s helpful to pre-plan at least some of the events to try to get the most out of you trip but there’s certainly no need to do the extreme level that I have done. Having said that, with the “dynamic dining” coming in 2015 to Oasis/Allure (whenever they decide to implement that), at least to me it would be helpful to track when and where you will have dinner nightly and when you want to watch the shows.

 

One of my favorite travel book series is the “unofficial guides” to the Disney theme parks. We are big Disney fans and for couple years, we had annual passes to Disneyland. Using the book’s suggested plan to tour the parks, I planned out our daily activities while we were there and then use the real time apps for the cell phone to know what the queue time for the next ride while we are in line for the current ride (just think Commando dad invades Mickey land). I typically don’t use this approach for the other cruises I have been on but for this cruise, I modified that schedule to use for our purposes.

 

It should come as no surprise that I am using Excel schedule to do this as every finance person uses Excel. It has 101 uses (102 if you use it for work). Anyway, I am attaching it as a template for anyone who wants to do a schedule for their trip.

 

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Like I said, not necessary for those that like to “wing it” (like my wife) but I am anal. Maybe this set up will help someone else. Color coded by flights/port time/tours/activities. If you have little ones, you can even add stickers or pictures to them.

 

Of course the first question to ask if did we do all the things on the list and the answer is “of course not”. That’s OK as you can plan all you want pre vacation and when you get there, you can choose to follow the schedule or just modify things as they come. You don’t have to be slave to your own schedule. This isn’t work. I will discuss at the various points later where we deviated from the schedule.

Planner.xls

Edited by harryfat1

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Very nice pictures.

A little to much of a blah feeling

But to each his own.

Thanks for your posts

 

Safe travels

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Forums mobile app

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Interesting review! Like your spreadsheet. Since Royal switched to a lot less paper, I usually print out the cruise calendar to post on one of our cabin walls.

 

Like the pic of the Christmas ornament! The nice thing about those promenade trees is being able to shoot a single ornament w/o a macro lens.

Edited by knittinggirl

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Enjoying your review. I really like to see people's different writing styles as it makes the read fun. Thanks for taking the time to do it.:)

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Thank you for the report. We are going on the same cruise in March. I am a bit of a planner myself (that may be is a giant understatement), so I also have a detailed spreadsheet mapping out activities and costs.

 

Question for you on the Comedy show you have listed on your spreadsheet. It indicates it was family friendly. Did you need to make reservations for that show? On my cruise planner all the comedy shows are adult only. My teenage boys would really enjoy a comedy show.

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I am really enjoying your review. BTW, I can not believe that there was a $3500 difference in cruise price for 12/14 versus 12/21. I too would have opted for the earlier week. :)

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Loving your report. Also enjoying the added humor. Nice to read a light hearted "report" instead the serious, stuffy official reviews. I'm still reading, so now you have 6 people following!

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Forums mobile app

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Day 0 – Here are couple pictures of the family as we waited for my in laws to meet us at the airport. We flew out of San Francisco on JetBlue.

 

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My favorite airlines from bay area is either Virgin America or JetBlue. In theory, United out of SFO is a better option since there are many more flight options/time of departure than JetBlue but if you compare legroom on Seatguru.com, JetBlue has more leg space and individual TV control. Critical for the ADHD in me that needs to be entertained during the 5 plus hour flight. No, perish the thought I have to read a book. I’m illiterate.

 

The one drawback on taking JetBlue out of SFO to FLL is there are only choice of 2 direct flights. Either we take the red eye or the afternoon flight. We choose the latter as we had bad experiences in the past with red eyes but that also meant we didn’t land in FLL until after 11 PM and called the hotel to have the shuttle pick us up.

 

Holiday Inn Express at Dania Beach – Booked this hotel through Last minute travel (LMT) for less than $100 per night. It has solid reviews from trip advisor. The hotel is brand new, build earlier in April 2014 and not on many people’s radar screen for a pre cruise stay so it’s a hidden gem. Airport shuttle service 24/7. Free breakfast. They can arrange shuttle transfer to the port at $8/pp but you can of course make your own arrangement via taxi or other shuttle companies. We didn’t have the need to buy anything last minute but there is a Walgreens about 11 minutes away on foot per Google map direction.

 

The list price on the hotel’s web site for our stay was $219/night or $175 with AAA discount. I wouldn’t pay either of those list prices but if you can get it on at a decent sales price, go for it. There is no big wow factor to the hotel but considering we are there only to sleep few hours, it met our requirements.

 

By time we checked into our rooms and showered, it was after 1 AM.

 

 

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Thank you for the report. We are going on the same cruise in March. I am a bit of a planner myself (that may be is a giant understatement), so I also have a detailed spreadsheet mapping out activities and costs.

 

Question for you on the Comedy show you have listed on your spreadsheet. It indicates it was family friendly. Did you need to make reservations for that show? On my cruise planner all the comedy shows are adult only. My teenage boys would really enjoy a comedy show.

 

Thanks for the kind words.

 

Yes, the Royal web site will not allow you to book any show time at the comedy club for guests under 18. My boys are 11 and 13 so I had to pass on that as part of my pre planning but they do have 1 show on day 7 at 10:30 PM for the whole family. No reservation needed for that one as it’s in the Amber Theater that seats a thousand plus people. Just show up.

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