A pleasure palace to remember

The Allure of the Seas arriving in Port Everglades
The Allure of the Seas arriving in Port Everglades
Photo: Darrel Newman

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The gentle breeze across my cabin balcony came rustling through the elegant greenery of New York’s Central Park as we were cruising south from Florida and towards the Caribbean.

It wasn’t the first time I had to suspend my powers of disbelief on the world’s biggest cruise liner.

At just over 225,000 tonnes, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines’s Allure of the Seas is comfortably the largest cruise ship ever built – the equivalent to about five Titanics.

Along with her full complement of 5,400 other passengers, I joined the ship for a preview at Fort Lauderdale. Around 2,400 crew looked after us as we tackled crazy adventures like simulated surfing on a FlowRider, teeing off on the mini golf course, or scrambling up a rock climbing wall.

Despite the stupendous scale of this ship, you aren’t too aware of all the other people on board. They spread out pretty well across 16 passenger decks.

Central Park, for example, is a football pitch-sized expanse with more than 12,000 trees and plants. Many cabins look over this triumph of creative landscaping, rather than the sea.

Royal Caribbean wants to challenge the notion that cruises are geared for the elderly, if not the downright infirm, although Allure boasts almost 50 ‘wheelchair accessible staterooms’. The average age of passengers on sister ship Oasis of the Seas, launched in 2009, has fallen steadily from 55 to 45 years, and the new ship might well accelerate this trend.

Entertainment for all ages is very much at the forefront on this floating pleasure palace. There’s a stage to put several in the West End to shame, a 3D cinema, ice rink, AquaTheatre and 21 pools of assorted sizes – more than enough to keep you entertained on a week-long voyage.

The dedicated provision of facilities for children on board is impressive, too. In the Adventure Ocean area, an entertainment team offers a schedule with a range of activities for all age groups.

Seeing the ship for the first time, towering more than 200 feet above the water line, is an unforgettable moment.

It looks like the result of a high-impact collision involving several hotels and a shopping mall, with a complex interior layout featuring seven themed sections more akin to a Covent Garden piazza or the atmospheric main drag of a vibrant city.

If it’s a lively atmosphere you want, you won’t be disappointed. There are 17 bars, from poolside watering holes such as the Sky Bar, to more atmospheric hideaways including Jazz on 4, Bolaros and a particular favourite of mine, Dazzles.

Two floors dedicated to dancing the night away with 80s and 90s disco hits, plus the odd Michael Jackson-themed evening, certainly kept me entertained.

Royal Caribbean prides itself on delivering entertainment for young and old alike. Building on its collaboration with Dreamworks, the makers of blockbuster films Shrek and Madagascar, the ship presents a Move It! Move It! parade of costumed characters. Kids will also love the ship’s production How To Train Your Dragon On Ice, featuring an imaginative use of kites, costumes and choreography.

ESSENTIALS

Adam Blaxhall was a guest of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Virgin Holidays Cruises which offers an eight night Miami Stay & Cruise from £1,349 in 2012, including room only overnight at The Westin Beach Resort, Fort Lauderdale, and seven nights on Allure of the Seas calling at Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico. Prices based on two adults sharing, including Virgin Atlantic flights ex-Heathrow.

• Reservations: 0871 781 9893 and virginholidayscruises.co.uk