WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Royal Caribbean has its own adjectives to describe its newest ship, Allure of the Seas. Words like revolutionary and most innovative.
As the first passengers came aboard for the preview cruise in late November, they added their own: Incredible. Awesome. Unbelievable.
Allure of the Seas is the sister ship to Oasis of the Seas, launched with much fanfare about a year ago as the largest cruise ship in the world. Allure is identical to Oasis in most respects, but it's almost one-quarter of an inch longer, making it the largest cruise ship in the world.
A veritable skyscraper on the water, Allure dwarfs the other ships at its home in Port Everglades.
On hand for the preview were plenty of famous names: Jeffrey Katzenberg (chief executive officer of DreamWorks Animation), Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford from Today, and Adam Sandler and Katie Holmes, who were shooting scenes for their movie, Jack and Jill.
Here's a glimpse of what a giant floating city is like.
The size: 24 elevators, anyone?How big is the biggest cruise ship ever? It doesn't really hit home until you are aboard.
Overall, the ship exudes an air of elegance, without being stuffy. At full capacity, Allure accommodates 6,318 guests and 2,384 crew. There are 16 passenger decks and 24 elevators. It wouldn't be a bad idea to have a few horizontal elevators as well.
Executive chef Jahn Ivo says part of his daily routine is checking on the more than 20 dining venues scattered around the ship. In one day, his pedometer recorded 24,000 steps, which translates to 8 to 10 miles. Can we get this man a Segway?
The rooms: Floating hotelThere are 2,706 state rooms, 72 percent with balconies. While the suites are lavish, as you might expect, the rooms for mere mortals are pretty good, too. Tastefully appointed, they feature the latest technology, including flat-screen TVs and iPod docking stations.
They do a remarkable job of maximizing the space with shelves, cabinets, and cubbyholes for all your belongings.
Getting around: You are 'here'For all its size, there is a wonderful feeling of flow as you go from one area to another. One thing you hear over and over from the Royal Caribbean executive team is the focus on the "guest experience."
Particularly useful are the interactive touch-screen guides on every deck. With buttons for "What to Do Right Now" and "Room Finder," I never felt lost.
Central Park: Yes, there's a parkImagine exiting an elevator in the middle of a cruise ship and walking into the bright sunshine amid thousands of trees and plants, complete with chirping birds and upscale restaurants. It's called Central Park, and, like its New York namesake, it's the perfect place to rest and unwind amid walls of plants five decks high.
You can grab lunch at the Park Cafe or reserve a table at 150 Central Park, the most upscale restaurant on the ship with a surcharge of $35 a person. Other venues include a steak house, Chops Grille, and Giovanni's Table & Vintages, offering a wide selection of wines.
Boardwalk: Family fun and a carouselIf you crave an experience more like Coney Island, proceed to the Boardwalk, where the emphasis is on family and fun. For starters, you can't miss the full-size carousel, with its 18 hand-carved figures.
There's a Rita's Cantina, a new Mexican specialty restaurant (specialty in front of any restaurant means there's an extra charge, by the way); a Johnny Rockets with its signature dancing waiters; the Aqua Theater, featuring water and light shows; and two 43-foot rock-climbing walls for the adventurous.
And then there's the surprisingly popular Dog House, where you order from seven varieties of custom-made hot dogs.
The entertainment: Party like DreamWorksA mega-size ship deserves mega-size entertainment, and Allure delivers, starting with a full-scale, Broadway-caliber production of Chicago. There's also an ice show; a 3-D movie theater (showing DreamWorks' Megamind); a Cirque du Soleil-style experience; a comedy club; a jazz club; dance clubs, including the two-story Dazzles; and gambling in Casino Royale.
The big story here is Royal Caribbean's alliance with DreamWorks, whose characters and creations are integrated throughout the ship.
For those who want to try surfing, there's FlowRider. For thrill-seekers, attach yourself to a zip line and soar over the atrium. And so much more.
Dining: A 3,000-seat main venueAllure gives you a chance to eat and drink nonstop at almost every turn. The main dining room is the multi-deck Adagio, which can seat 3,000. At the Samba Grill, you can eat Brazilian style. Just press "green" on your table light, and more meat selections start coming your way.
There's something for every taste, from steak to Italian. You can even cook it yourself at Izumi Asian Cuisine, featuring 550-degree hot rocks.
Allure also features the first Starbucks at sea, plus Sorrento's Pizzeria and the Cupcake Cupboard. And there's a special Coke machine. At a touch of a button, you can order from 106 kinds of Coca-Cola products.
Shopping: Guess, anyone?Among the many shops is another first for the Allure - a Guess fashion store. Also on board is the first Britto art gallery, featuring the work of Romero Britto.
The bars: How high can you get?Even on a ship this size, there are plenty of places to lose yourself in a quiet, dark corner against a background of jazz or Sinatra.
My favorites included the Crown Viking Lounge, high atop the 17th deck, where the entertainment includes the sunset; the Champagne Bar, for a taste of the bubbly; and maybe the most unusual, the Rising Tide Bar. You enter on the fifth deck, and the whole bar lifts skyward toward the eighth. It's the only way to fly.
Cost to build: $1.5 billion
Time to build: Seven years and 10 million worker-hours of design and construction
Weight: 225,282 tons
Length: 1,187 feet
Width: 208 feet
Height: 213 feet from the waterline
Cruising speed: 22 knots (25.3 m.p.h.)
Passenger decks: 16
Passenger elevators: 24
Passenger capacity: 6,318
Dining options: 26
Maiden voyage: Dec. 1
Ports of call: Caribbean
Home port: Port Everglades
- Gerry Barker