By Theresa Norton Masek
One of the most exciting times in the cruise industry is just before a new ship is introduced and journalists who cover the industry are given a sneak peek of its features. Last week Royal Caribbean International gave members of the press a tour of the almost-completed Allure of the Seas at the STX Europe shipyard in Turku, Finland. The Allure, if you recall, is the sister ship to Oasis of the Seas, the 6,200-passenger, 225,282-ton megaship that broke the size record amid unprecedented buzz and attention.
During the shipyard tour, the buzz was about how Allure would differ from Oasis. The short answer is the two ships are structurally identical although there are a few new features. Raimund Gschaider, who serves as hotel manager of the Allure as he did the Oasis, says executives held numerous meetings when planning the sister ship. “We wondered what can we change, what can we do to make it better?” Gschaider says. “We came up with a short list of insignificant things.”
Some reporters wondered if the Allure would wrest the title of world’s largest cruise ship from Oasis — Allure’s captain jokingly pointed out that the new ship is indeed five millimeters longer. But Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein says the sister ships will be jointly presented as the world’s largest cruise ships (though the official size measurement — gross registered tonnage — has not been taken yet).
So what will be different? Lisa Bauer, Royal Caribbean’s senior vice president-hotel operations, put it like this: “Allure will truly be the ship of entertainment – and leading that off will be the Broadway musical ‘Chicago.’” Other new entertainment on Allure will include two new ice shows — “Ice Games,” based on the Monopoly game, and “How to Train Your Dragon,” courtesy of Royal Caribbean’s new partnership with DreamWorks Animation. DreamWorks characters also will show up in other places throughout the ship, both in performances, photo opportunities and at character meals — all at no extra charge – and new 3-D movie screens will show DreamWorks movies.
Allure of the Seas also will feature a few different restaurants, most notably Samba Grill, a Brazilian steakhouse. The churrascaria will be located in the Solarium Bistro, which will continue to serve healthful meals for breakfast and lunch, but will convert into the Samba Grill for dinner. It will feature waiters dressed like gauchos and long skewers of grilled meals and seafood. The cover charge will be $25.
In the Boardwalk neighborhood, two new eateries will be featured: A new Mexican restaurant called Rita’s Cantina will take over the spot occupied by the Seafood Shack on Oasis. The cover change will be $7.95. The Boardwalk Dog House will serve (you guessed it!) hot dogs, brats and other sausages on a complimentary basis. It will take the spot occupied by the Donut Shop on Oasis, but the Donut Ship will remain on Allure in a new location. For those of you who are fans of miniature sweets, rest assured that the Cupcake Cupboard will return on Allure.
Allure also will offer a very exclusive dining option called the Chef’s Table on the upper level of the Concierge Lounge overlooking the outdoor AquaTheater. The table seats just 14 people on a reservations-only basis (reservations can be done online pre-cruise). The ship’s chef will personally offer each course and explain step by step how each dish was prepared. A sommelier will explain the wine pairings. Guests depart with a memento apron and a cookbook.
The Chef’s Table, which will cost $75 per person, isn’t technically new, since it was started on Oasis last year, but it is a “very well-kept secret,” Gschaider says. On Allure, the Chef’s Table is wired for sound, so diners can listen to the music while watching the high-diving acrobatic show at the AquaTheater.
All of these features sound like welcome additions to Allure, but you can sell it in much the same way you do Oasis. Royal Caribbean apparently agreed with the old chestnut: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The line’s executives say Oasis of the Seas has broken records for fares and onboard revenues since it entered service last November. So I’m sure they’re counting on the same performance from Allure when it joins Oasis in Fort Lauderdale in November. For more information on Allure, visit www.allureoftheseas.com.