Allure of the Seas review: It's got character(s)
The lion from the Dreamworks film 'Madagascar' is among the characters seen aboard Royal Caribbean cruises. (Royal Caribbean)
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--Allure has a Starbucks on the Royal Promenade, the first on a cruise ship. Coffee drinks and a limited selection of food items are available for the same price you'd pay at your neighborhood Starbucks.
--At night, the Solarium Bistro, which serves spa food for breakfast and lunch, turns into the Samba Grill, an extra-fee Brazilian churrascaria featuring grilled meat and seafood brought to the table on skewers and sliced for each diner, as well as an extensive antipasto and salad bar. On an early preview cruise for the media and travel agents, eight varieties of meat were served.
"We found our guests love eating healthy for breakfast and lunch, not so much for dinner," said Lisa Bauer, Royal Caribbean's senior vice president for hotel operations. Cost: $25; for vegetarians, there's a $15 charge for the salad bar.
--Rita's Cantina, a casual extra-fee restaurant featuring Mexican food, replaces the Seafood Shack on the Boardwalk. Food and service got mixed reviews on the preview cruise. "Cigars" -- like small, cylindrical deep-fried tacos -- were greasy and the fried taste overwhelmed the flavor of the filling, but a ceviche tostada with small shrimp was light and tasty. Tables sat empty, waiting to be cleared, for long periods, while people in line were told the wait would be an hour or longer. Cost: $7.95.
--The Boardwalk Dog House serves sausages, wieners and brats, at no extra charge. The Dog House is in the space that on Oasis is occupied by Boardwalk Donuts, which moves next to the ice cream parlor.
--Central Park has a gallery of works by Romero Britto, the contemporary pop artist's first gallery at sea. Britto also created a butterfly sculpture for Central Park's gardens and a teddy bear available only on the ship. Prices are slightly higher than those on land -- but without tax.
--The Royal Promenade has a Guess accessories boutique, the first at sea.
--Shows unique to Allure are Chicago: The Musical; an elaborate song, dance and acrobatics production called Blue Planet; and OceanAria, an aquatic and high-dive show in the AquaTheater.
--Guests can review their accounts and calendars (including entertainment and specialty restaurants they've booked) and print airline boarding passes at kiosks near Guest Services.
--Staterooms have iPod docking stations with clocks. In addition, in response to customer complaints, Allure has added a triple electrical outlet on top of the desk (the outlets on Oasis are under the desk and hard to get to) and put more toiletries in the cabins. Those changes are planned for Oasis as well.
"The lessons we learned from Oasis made up a 77-page document," Bauer said. "Most of the comments we got about things that needed to be tweaked were in the staterooms. The No. 1 request we got was a clock."