Anyone who knows me probably wondered if I’d lost my mind in November, when I boarded the Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ship ever to sail out of Galveston.
It’s no secret that I’m usually happier tucked in a sleeping bag outdoors than in a fancy hotel, much less on one of those floating cities known as a cruise ship. Still, I was curious. How would an outdoorsy person who has a hard time sitting still fare on a vessel as big as the Lone Star State’s reputation?
The colossal, 12-year-old, 1,187-foot Allure of the Seas can carry up to 6,780 passengers and 2,100 crew members. It is the fifth-largest cruise ship on the planet and the biggest to ever depart from Texas.
A look at the cruise ship
The Royal Caribbean’s website showed a vessel outfitted with a merry go round, four swimming pools, six hot tubs, 24 guest elevators, an ice rink, a zipline, an outdoor stadium, an indoor theater, a casino, shops, a mini-golf course, a pickleball court, a surfing simulator, two rock climbing walls, shops, a bar that moves up and down between floors, restaurants –– and, thank God, a running track.
So, in November, I joined 3,500 or so passengers on the Allure’s inaugural cruise out of Royal Caribbean’s swanky new $125-million, solar-powered terminal in Galveston.
It was, in a word, an experience.
No, I didn’t hate it. And no, I don’t need to do it again, either.
I had a blast, especially when we docked in Cozumel for half a day, and I squeezed in two scuba dives. But some things ––– like an ice skating show based on the board game Monopoly or an indoor parade featuring pirate ships on wheels ––– only need to be experienced once.
I’ve taken a lot of flak for this stance, mainly from acquaintances who love cruises. It’s a polarizing issue. And I get it. I see the appeal of cruises for multi-generational groups. Also, compared to other forms of travel, big ships are relatively affordable, especially when you catch a deal.
Highlights of my cruise
But there’s a lot to enjoy onboard a big ship. So, without further ado, here are my 10 favorite things about spending five days aboard the Allure of the Seas. …
- I’m a sucker for a good musical, and the ship’s rendition of Mamma Mia! would have impressed me even if I’d watched it on Broadway. Sipping a cocktail and watching the show in a glitzy theater while the entire venue gently swayed just added to the experience.
- I’m an avid water skier and was hoping I could master stand-up surfing on the ship’s surf simulator. I never graduated from boogie boarding but had a blast trying.
- My last night on the ship, country-pop singer Kelsea Ballerini performed on the outdoor stage, while the first real cold front of the season whipped through. Someone from the ship handed out beach towels to the audience members, and Ballerini never complained – she just put on a great show.
- I’m curious about the inner workings of such a huge ship, and I geeked out during a behind-the-scenes tour of the engine room, where the head engineer along with the ship’s environmental officer explained everything I ever needed to know about Azipods, water purification, and recycling.
5. I randomly met Linda and Dave Scott, a Plano couple in their early eighties who were perched on deck chairs in matching shirts that said, “Cruising through life one port at a time.” The November cruise marked their 62nd ocean excursion. And after a two-year hiatus while the pandemic raged, they’d booked a total of six cruises in 2022, they told me.
6. Our ship stopped for about six hours in Cozumel, and I squeezed in two scuba dives along the island’s gorgeous coral reef. Highlights of the dives? A spotted eagle ray, a puffer fish, a peacock flounder, and a host of blue, pink, and yellow schools of fish.
7. The best bar on the ship ––– a cozy British pub ––– made me feel exactly like I was sipping my old fashioned in London.
8. One evening I returned to my cabin to discover the attendant had formed my bath towel into the shape of a bat and hung it from the ceiling.
9. I vowed to avoid the elevators and take the stairs, and my quads burned by the end of each day – in a good way. I got plenty of exercise.
10. But the best part of all? Just sitting on the balcony of my cabin on the tenth floor, watching the ocean scroll past.
If You Go
It takes about four hours to drive 190 miles from Austin to Galveston, where I picked up boarded the Allure of the Seas at Royal Caribbean’s new terminal.
Aboard the ship, of course.
Eat, boogie board, watch shows, gamble, eat again, soak in a hot tub, run on the track, play mini golf, eat, ride the merry go round, play pickleball, watch a belly flop contest, eat, go to an ice skating show, watch a parade, sit on the deck, and eat once more.
Eat & Drink:
The ship features eight complimentary eateries, plus 10 specialty restaurants, where passengers pay an additional fee to dine. There are also numerous bars. crab.