Sailing around the Caribbean aboard the world’s biggest cruise ship

It’s a big, big story. So enormous that it’s difficult to know where to begin when looking at life on board the Allure of the Seas. Size really does matter on the world’s largest cruise ship, which at 1,181ft is just two inches longer than its sister ship Ocean of the Seas.

There are not one but two surfing simulators as well as a matching pair of climbing walls. Look a little higher and there’s a zipwire ride, while deep in the bowels of the ship they have even managed to squeeze in an ice rink.

Then there’s the Boardwalk with its spectacular Aqua Theatre and a full-size fairground carousel, and an open-air park the length of a football pitch, all filled with thousands of plants and trees.

The cavernous Royal Promenade is a shopping mall packed with designer stores and restaurants while in the ­Rising Tide Bar you can have a drink or two moving between three decks.

The range and variety of activities are just as extensive – from water polo contests to flash-mob line-dancing. But if all you want to do is relax and enjoy some rays, the Allure is so big you don’t have to drape a towel to bag a sunbed.

In fact, despite the 6,000 passengers on board, the ship hardly ever feels crowded. And just as effortlessly Allure ­handles the daunting task of keeping so many people fed and watered.

The Windjammer buffet was the most popular venue, always rammed at breakfast and lunchtimes, which I found rather depressing as the quality of the food did not really match its popularity. Clearly a case of quantity over quality. I much preferred the Solarium bistro for breakfast… a more limited choice, but more relaxed surroundings.

For lunch, my favourite was the Park Cafe with its superb roast beef sandwiches and a selection of wraps, toasties and salads. It was also a great place to relax in the open air with the piped sound of birdsong adding that little extra something.

To avoid the queues at the restaurants, check out the interactive TV and the monitors around the ship which helpfully show you where you can get a table and where you’ll have to wait a while.

At dinner most people choose the main restaurant, cleverly designed to disguise the fact that it can hold almost 3,000 people at a sitting, its three levels broken up into intimate sections. For an extra charge, there’s also a wealth of specialty options, from the Italian family-style trattoria, Giovanni’s Table, to the upmarket Chops Grillesteakhouse.

Even more exclusive is 150 Central Park, where a selection of six different salts come with the bread rolls. It might be easy to dismiss as a gimmick, but nibbling on one of them I was convinced I was eating a hard-boiled egg.

My six-day trip turned out to be a perfect mix of three days at sea and three days ashore.

Labadee, the first port of call, is Royal Caribbean’s private resort on the north coast of Haiti, and I had been looking forward to my expedition skimming the waves on a jet ski (£62). Sadly, high winds put paid to that, and I had to content myself instead with relaxing in a private cabana at Barefoot Beach.

Falmouth in Jamaica is a new cruise terminal custom-built for Allure and its smaller sister ships, with a shopping mall selling all the things you never needed, from colour-changing T-shirts to eternal diamonds. Something for everyone, but not necessarily anything unique to the island. Venture beyond the compound and you run the gauntlet of a street filled with traders and touts, but ­nothing much else to see.

My need for speed, thwarted in Labadee, was satisfied by a quad bike adventure. I got down and very dirty riding around a nearby sugar plantation.

The final stop was at the holiday island of ­Cozumel off Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Countless excursions were on offer, ranging from beach “experiences” to the chance of close ­encounters with all kinds of aquatic life.

I opted for a trip back in time to the ruined Mayan city of Tulum. It involved an hour-long ferry ride to Playa del Carmen on the mainland, followed by another hour’s travel by coach. Tulum was impressive, its stone ruins standing four-square on a cliff-top, guarding a break in the off-shore reef which has been allowing boats to reach the beach here for more than 600 years. The ­civilisation died out after the Spanish ­invasion, although given the Mayans’ fondness for human sacrifice, it’s a surprise they lasted that long.

Back on the Allure, another kind of civilisation is just getting into its stride. It’s 11.30 at night. I’ve just bought a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale, and my dinner jacket is straining across a satisfied stomach.

Meanwhile, my father John (also known as ­Mirror cruise writer Captain Greybeard) is singing the National Anthem at the top of his voice to 150 people at the behest of a Hawaiian entertainer.

The sacrifices I have to make…

Just how big is Allure of the Seas?
– The ship has 16 decks
– There are 2,706 state rooms (1,956 balcony, 254 outside, 496 interior)
– The ship is 1,187 ft (360m) long, 208 ft (64m) wide and 213 ft (65m) high from the water line
– At 1,187 ft long, Allure of the Seas is 124 feet longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall
– Her length is about equivalent to three and a half football pitches
– She is more than five times as long as a Boeing 747
– Allure of the Seas was built out of 500,000 individual parts
– 600,000 litres of paint were used
– There are 150 miles of pipework running through the ship
– The electric cables would stretch 3,300 miles end to end – the distance from Lisbon to New York
– The ship also boasts 100,000 lighting points
– The ship’s main dining room has 50,000 pieces of cutlery
– The ship can hold 6,296 guests and 2,384 crew
– It cost $1.4billion and took 7.5million man hours to construct

What’s the deal?
A nine-night stay and Caribbean Cruise costs from £1,299pp with two nights room-only at Sheraton Fort Lauderdale, before joining Allure Of The Seas. Prices are based on two adults travelling and sharing an inside cabin on a full-board basis including Virgin Atlantic flights for select departures in November.

Bird’s eye view of the pool deck and Central Park


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