They will build the biggest ship on Earth to take people to... Costa Maya! Why?
I chose the Western Caribbean cruise with the Allure, since it really doesn't matter where you go because on this case, the destination is the ship, but to take passengers to this forgotten place with nothing, and I mean, NOTHING to do, is puzzling. Costa Maya is a tourist area created by the Mexico's government. The city's name is actually Mahahual, and to call that fishing village a city is, by all means, a stretch.
As always I didn't buy the tours on board to avoid packed buses and high prices, so I contacted a travel agency called The Native Choice, located in Costa Maya (http://www.thenativechoice.com/) and booked online the tour "Mayan Experience" (US$70 per person) and we were happily surprised with their service and the tour.
We visited Chacchoben Mayan Ruins (see picture) located one hour from the pier - notice I didn't say port - and then we visited a modern Mayan community where we had a traditional Mayan meal. A delightful experience.
During our drive inland we were greeted by the Mexican army on a road check. The tour agency told us that the area was safe, but will all the news about violence in Mexico, it was always a concern for me, even though nothing happened during our tour.
Other than that, there is not much to do in Costa Maya. If you have no plans, just relax in the ship and forget about this port.
Next stop is Cozumel, and if you don't know it yet, this island out of the coast of the Yucatan peninsula is the biggest tourist trap in the Caribbean. Take your chances or again, stay on the ship!
I forgot to mention the first stop: Labadee, or should I say Royal Caribbean City? It's just a money making machine for RCL with zip lines, roller coasters and some locals selling they crafts. Nice place to relax on the beach and enjoy a barbecue.
Other than that, you will have three more days at sea to enjoy Allure of the Seas and all the activities and entertainment on board. Let's take a look into that!
Allure has stolen the title Entertainment Ship from NCL's Epic. Fair or not? Well, there are a lot of shows available on Allure of the Seas but fasten your seat belts because it's going to be a bumpy ride!
First night we saw Comedy Live, a stand up comedy show with two very good comedians: Robbie Printz & Basile. The show lasts for one hour and I guarantee that you will have a great time, especially with the Greek comedian Basile and his very unique style.
Then we saw Chicago and that was the best show I have ever seen on a cruise ship. Great singers, actors and director. Dance was good, but it's not Broadway. They created a shorter version with 90 minutes that flows really well. Don't miss it!
That was a good start, but then it all went downhill from there.
The Aqua Theater is an open air space at the very back of the ship. RCL produced "Oceanaria" that is nothing more than a shameless collage of various Cirque du Soleil numbers from O to La Nouba and everything they could grab in between. As a Cirque du Soleil's big fan I was appalled by this ridiculous attempt to copycat something amazing and in the process create a laughable disaster.
Next we saw "Ice Games" at Studio B. Let me just say that I've seen at least three other ice skating productions on RCL and I enjoyed them enormously. So I had high hopes for Ice Games since we were at the Entertainment ship, and, oh boy, I was wrong. Ice Games is the equivalent of a high school play on a bad night. Tasteless, boring and dated. If you are a five year old, you might enjoy it, six and above, just skip it all together!
There is another 25 minutes ice skating show based on the cartoon: How To Train Your Dragon. If you have small kids, take them to see it. If you don't, I'm sure you will regret wasting these 25 minutes inside, when you could be enjoying the Caribbean sun!
And finally Allure brings you "Blue Planet"... let's say that this show is a decent cruise ship production.
The same cast that early in the week plays Chicago sings and dance on this Cirque du Soleil like musical. The kind of show that you will forget five minutes after you leave the theater.
The DreamWorks characters are around the ship, like Mickey is on the Disney cruises. They have two parades on the Promenade, breakfast with the characters (you have to book in advance) and many photos op during the cruise. One good thing about being on a huge ship like the Allure is that you don't have to take part of anything if you don't want to, so I never saw Fiona or Shrek, but I'm sure that the 600 kids on board during that week had a ball!
Allure has a huge casino, 50% smoke free. Very nice indeed.
So NCL's Epic might be an architectural disaster but I think that their Entertainment is far better that what you will see on the Allure, but let's discuss that on a future blog!
With so many days at sea and boring ports, what can you do on board?
Other than the rock climbing walls that you find on every RCL ships, the Flow Riders introduced on the Freedom class ships is a fun activity. You can book a class and learn com to surf with a private teacher. The Zip Line is a four seconds activity introduced on the Oasis class ships and honestly nothing special here. See video here!
Now, they will build a ship that can accommodate up to 6,500 guests and I will have a gym with 25 treadmills, 20 elliptical, four steppers, a free weight area where three or four people can work out at the same time... and this is not a joke, this is Allure's gym. So at any given time during sea days you will have to wait for a cardio machine. But don't worry, the spinning class is right in the middle on the gym, so you will be able to hear the loud music and the instructor's screams from anywhere on this cramped and dark gym. See the video here.
But you can enjoy the beautiful spa if you are willing to pay an average of US$200 per treatment - that includes 18% tip but not the products they will try to sell you!
In conclusion, Allure is, by all means, a beautiful ship with pros and cons. For me it was overwhelming in many ways and if you ask me: Would you go back for another Oasis class ship cruise? I will say: No!
As much as I love cruses and cruise ships, I believe that there is a limit in size to make it an enjoyable experience and a ship with 2000, 2500 passenger is big enough for me. Traveling on "Wall Mart on black Friday" was fun once... but in the future I will always remember... Bigger is not always better!
Safe travels everyone!