Prejudice against largest cruise ship unfounded

Almost four years ago I wrote a column detailing how a trip about Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas - at that time the largest cruise ship ever built - was not my cup of tea.

"The thought of spending my vacation on a floating skyscraper (OK, OK, it's only 18 decks) with 6,679 other passengers and a 2,200-person crew leaves me feeling a little jittery," I wrote.

What an idiot.

Last week over spring break I spent six nights on a cruise to Mexico and Honduras aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. And now I would like to retract my earlier comments.

Dan and I have long believed that the best cruise for us would be aboard a smaller vessel along the Danube in Germany and Austria or the Seine in France. But when my birth father invited us all last summer to take a family cruise over spring break, it was hard to say no. So Dan, Ainsley and I met up with Bob and his wife, Shari, and my sister and brother-in-law, Chris and Ken, in Fort Lauderdale to board the Allure March 27.

We had watched YouTube videos of various travel critics touring the ship, but nothing really prepared me for setting foot on the Allure, which had 18 decks, 19 restaurants, 15 bars and lounges, four pools, six whirlpools, two FlowRiders, a rock climbing wall, a full-size carousel and a scaled-down version of Central Park.

We had a blast.

At our first port stop in Cozumel, Mexico, I fulfilled a decades-old dream of swimming with dolphins.

We spent a day snorkeling and enjoying the beach at our second stop in Roatan, Honduras.

And there was so much to do on the ship, we didn't even mind (too much) when our third port stop in Costa Maya, Mexico, was canceled due to bad weather.

From boogie boarding on the FlowRider to zip-lining nine stories above the boardwalk to watching "Mamma Mia!" to various trivia nights, we always had something fun to keep us busy. Just about anything you wanted to do, you could.

My favorite activity - after the dolphins - was the '70s night party Wednesday night on the Promenade. It started with a DJ playing some 70s songs and then a male-female duet performing others for about 15 minutes. Then the real show began, with a catwalk unfolding a story about the promenade and a host of dancers appearing above us and on a small stage to our left. And did I mention Bob dressed up as Huggy Bear from "Starsky and Hutch" (Google it!) for the event, which was worth a million laughs all on its on.

Bob booked balcony suites for all of us, which meant we had a beautiful, spacious room with a wonderful view. More importantly, everyone in a suite gets a little blue card that carries all sorts of privileges, from not having to make reservations for shows to dining in the intimate Coastal Kitchen. I used to look disparagingly on people who got to do things like cut in line and have special privileges. Now that I have been one of them, I will feel only jealousy toward those I used to scorn.

And since we were traveling the week after my birthday, I was lucky enough to have decorations and a cake waiting in my stateroom and gifts of a massage and mother-daughter mani-pedi to make the cruise that much more enjoyable.

I'm not saying I'd never want to take a river cruise. But if the opportunity to sail aboard the Wonder of the Seas - the world's newest largest cruise ship - presents itself, I certainly won't hesitate.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean